Can you tell me a little bit about you?
Christian Mickovic was born 1989 in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned a BFA in painting with a drawing emphasis from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and an MFA in painting from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He maintains a studio practice in the Detroit area while exhibiting in cities as far as Portland and New York.
What do you like most about working where you do?
I work out of a two car garage, outfitted by Home Depot’s middle of the road – OSB, LED, etc. The suburbs at the edge of Detroit are relatively affordable and we aren’t wading through all of the same pressures or implications of the coastal art communities. I am able to keep a healthy studio/day-job balance.
Historically, rustbelt cities are a great place to keep your head down and work, I think it translates well to a studio practice. I grew up with this work ethic – My “latchkey” was wandering around a stone supplier’s shipyard on the Cuyahoga river, climbing two story gravel piles and attempting to befriend stray dogs- waiting for my parents to finish up another late night.
In short, I feel a connection to Detroit and to Cleveland in particular, where there are so many artists quietly developing great work.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I intend for the paintings to embody a stare gone on too long, to deal with the middle distance and an anxious internal dialogue run together. Overall overanalyzed, even the spaces between points of focus are activated, resulting in an atmosphere just beginning to vibrate and sour.
Within these images I find an analogy for painting as a self-conflicted literary device, which cannot entirely activate its own history. Narrative is broken and timeliness are skewed leaving us with augmented and overwrought likenesses of propaganda posters, illustrated myth, album covers, and formulaic compositional tropes in painting.
Images and systems become lenses, used to sight a field of tumbling painterly approaches — these are attempts at alien images of our own wandering toward a greater whole unknown.
What is your process like?
The process is a constant struggle – a loose overall coloring gives way to a planned fixed image, to another layer of color that might break up the drawing. I like to work slowly over the course of several months, sort of ruining the initial image with layers of color that argue with one another, then try to retrieve an edge here or there- to find a way back to the start. This process is honestly pretty frustrating, and makes it almost impossible to figure when a painting is finished. Layers one through five might have all been complete failures, but the real valuable work in my mind, is when the sixth falls on top just right- and that collection of marks and combative color suddenly starts to harmonize. What keeps me engaged over the long term has to be the sense of uncertainty, and when those small victories start to add up across the surface.
While working I tend to think a lot about Diebenkorn’s rules for painting, whether its a considered initial drawing or a set of rules to help dig me out of a mess- I always need a structure at center to play up and down from.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I work in museums and galleries, as of right now it is an American history museum in Dearborn, MI and freelance work at a few galleries in Detroit. The museum is great because I spend most of my time moving collections items from deep(deep) storage out to the daylight. Sometimes I open a box that hasn’t been opened for decades, and find early landscape photography- or I find a box labeled “Tesla Death Mask” to find nothing inside but yellowed and wadded up newspaper. Either way, these things find their way into the work. Additionally, hanging paintings in a gallery can keep you invested in what other artists are up to, and help foster a community. For me I need to keep a day job with some sort of perk, where I can bring something home to the studio.
What is your studio like?
The studio is in the back yard. Personally, I need to be able to walk out and see the work at all different times of day or in different states of mind – the ease of access doesn’t hurt either. Being able to walk out of the back door and have my coffee in the morning or a beer after work and just take things in, or just to get a couple of hours in on a weeknight – is very important. On studio days, I can roll out of bed and work all day while the dog chases squirrels. The little garage has been pretty great, I even hang work over the vinyl siding for photography – The Detroit area is top ten for most overcast days in the US, why not make it work for me.