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Local artist inspired by the land; work on display in Van Buren - Sequoyah County Times: Arts & Entertainment

Local artist inspired by the land; work on display in Van Buren

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Posted: Thursday, July 7, 2011 10:42 am

Local Sequoyah County artist Michael Ellison will display artwork inspired by life in Green Country at The Center for Art and Education in Van Buren, Ark, during July.

An opening reception for artist and co-exhibitor, Nancy Farrell, will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at the center.

Ellison’s show, titled “Mr. Mike’s Funny Farm,” will be displayed in the lower studio gallery.

About the exhibit, Ellison said, “It seems to me that places can have personalities, that land can be as individual from acre to acre as humans are, one from another. My work inhabits the areas between abstraction and figuration, but always I seek to imbue the image with both a sense of place, and a sense of the uniqueness of that place. Shapes and scenery that are meaningful to me, whether in real life or dream life, often reoccur from piece to piece. The result is a spare, ongoing Oklahoma landscape that is specific to one place — my mind. Over the past 15 years that landscape has served as a backdrop for an expanding cast of characters.”

Story lines in his art are normal, Ellison said.

“I like to dangle story lines in my artwork, a holdover from my days as a copywriter I suppose. But in defense of the narrative in art, if it’s true that an image ‘is worth a thousand words,’ then it must also be true that the image’s main value resides in the quality of the story that it has to tell. And I feel the Oklahoma landscape and its inhabitants are a novel largely unread.”

The land is an inspiration, Ellison said.

“After more than a decade of exhibiting artwork in Tulsa, Santa Fe and Van Buren, I took a break in 2002. For the last nine years, I’ve done less showing, more teaching — including helping out during the art center’s Summer Art-O-Rama. The kids know me as Mr. Mike. And indeed, Mr. Mike has a farm — 360 acres on top a large hill in northern Sequoyah County. That property, which has been in our family for 50 years, and my connection to it, are the inspiration for my artwork.

“Mr. Mike’s Funny Farm is an occasionally humorous tale of ineffectual ranching, regrettable nosiness and reclusive splendor,” Ellison said, “with some travel-log shots thrown in for good measure. Hopefully the viewer will recognize something familiar in the art on display, a scene, a place, an emotion, an idea. Because I believe that connection, that shared experience between artist and audience, is what art is all about.”

Ellison’s work is executed in a variety of media, most commonly oil or acrylic on canvas or mixed media on paper.

Also on display at the center’s upper exhibition gallery in July are the watercolors of Nancy Farrell. Farrell, of Ozark, Ark., is a faculty member at Arkansas Tech, and is a member of the Louisiana and Mid-Southern Watercolor Societies.

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