Don’t miss the opening reception for Mavens & Mystics, Michael Ezzell’s first solo exhibition, at Sulfur Studios on Friday, April 6 during the Mega Art March from 6 – 9pm. You can see more of Michael’s work at http://mezzell.com/.
SAI: What is the concept behind this show?
Michael Ezzell: It’s actually funny, it started out as one thing and then it kind of morphed into a different thing. [The show] was originally gonna be about beauty and vanity and then it escalated into this divine search for beauty, knowledge and this idealized state of everything. It kind of deals with religion but not specifically. It encompasses a lot of different mindsets and philosophies.
SAI: I get a mythological vibe from it. Is that what you mean when you say it sort of deals with religion?
Ezzell: Yeah, in the sense that it deals with beliefs and belief systems. For me personally, I take so much influence from storytelling and mythologies so I use that as an outlet for my belief system. It’s kind of a personal belief system and then I use different metaphors and archetypes from mythology to express that.
SAI: Was there anything that specifically inspired you?
Ezzell: Specifically, no. I’m so inspired by mythology and fairy tales and the whole fantastical nature of it. There’s also this personal struggle—each piece deals with reaching this divine state of being.
Originally I thought it was about beauty and trying to be the most beautiful in a superficial kind of way. Throughout history and in fairy tales you’d see these villains wanting to attain such superficial beauty and they envy it. But in reality, we’re all going to be dead so it doesn’t really matter.
SAI: When I look at your work there’s such an elegance and beauty to it, but there’s also this grotesqueness in the way your figures are formed.
Ezzell: They’re rigid and kind of awkwardly proportioned because I feel like humans aren’t beautiful. At least I don’t think we are. But we’re trying to be. So it’s kind of these ugly people trying to look pretty and I really like that. I mix in some androgyny because [beauty] doesn’t really pertain to a certain sex. Women are historically portrayed as wanting beauty but men obviously do too.
SAI: What informs your style?
Ezzell: I have so many influences. I’m really drawn to beautiful classical paintings by people like Rubens and Van Dyck. I like to see those but I like to see them uglier.
SAI: Are these relatively new pieces?
Ezzell: Yes, all of them.
SAI: When were they painted?
Ezzell: The past few months.
Ezzell: Yeah. Since about February. I wanted to try something new and involve more color and I didn’t want to have to do that with watercolor on paper, so I dove into painting. Actually, Urania and Apaturus is the first painting i’ve ever done in acrylic. I’ve never done acrylic painting before.
SAI: Shut up.
Ezzell: [Laughing] I know! You’ll notice when you go through [the exhibition] that it’s almost like a timeline. With [Urania and Apaturus] it was very tight, my blending and all that. But then I kind of loosened up and got more gestural and less concerned with values and shadows. There’s a degradation of style in there which I really like.
SAI: Who are all these women? Are they women?
Ezzell: A lot of them are women, a lot of them are androgynous. Urania and Apaturus is based on the epithets of Aphrodite. In Latin, Venus Urania means “Venus of the divine lover” and Venus Apaturus means “Venus of the deceptive love”. That was one I kind of made up on my own but others are based on actual myths. There’s Daphne in there—that’s the one that’s turning into a tree. She was running away from Apollo–from his love–so she turned into a tree and became immortalized. But I saw it as a release of her human form into something that is everlasting on this earth.
The lover’s eye is a motif that I used multiple times throughout the pieces. I really liked the idea of the eye on the brooch. Throughout history people would send a painting of their eye to their lover and it would be encased in an ornate brooch and they’d wear it. I think of it as an all seeing eye. It’s sort of creepy.
SAI: Romantic and creepy at the same time.
Ezzell: Yeah, exactly.