The next major exhibition of Michael Whelan’s artwork will be at Tree’s Place Gallery in Orleans, Massachusetts from July 19-24th, with an opening reception taking place on Saturday from 5-7pm.
Established on Cape Cod in 1986, the gallery at Tree’s Place is billed as one of America’s Finest Contemporary Galleries.
With this painting I revisit themes developed in my “Passage” series, which featured heavily in my first couple of one-man shows at the Tree’s Place gallery. All of the Passage works use the dream-object of the lighted bubbles—symbols of spirit or unfettered consciousness—to convey the idea of movement from one state of mind to another, a transition to a more open and lighted place; a release.
This is one of a pair of paintings done as an experiment to see how readily my acrylic painting style would work in the egg tempera medium. Both paintings are compositions using the same symbolic elements: an egg, an ammonite fossil, and the leaf of a ginkgo tree.
Looking for subjects suitable for a still life I’ve been turning to mementos scavenged from visits to Cape Cod beaches during summers past. Each one of these stays have their own particular memories, and objects which are invested with personal significance that I’ve managed to hold on to through the years.
When I think of Nauset beach I am reminded of times I’ve walked the sands there in the early morning, wrapped in dense fog. However, one late afternoon a fog rolled slowly in off the ocean, something I had never experienced outside of Northern California. As we sat on the dune the water gradually disappeared and before our eyes the sun made a splendid “fogbow” in the mist. It seemed magical, and I knew before even starting this composition that a fogbow would have to be part of it.
This image originated from an idea that I brought home with me from the hospital in May of the year 2000. When the idea came to me, the only thing I had to draw on was an advisory pamphlet for patients, so I used the back of it for a rough sketch of the composition. I carried the idea in my head for years afterwards and didn’t get around to executing the painting until ten years later.
For a long time, you’ve talked about splitting time between illustration and your fine art work. What does each mean to you?
What I wanted to do more than anything was to be a pilot or an astronaut, but I couldn’t do that. Then I had other goals, like any person who does something creative. You’re setting new horizons for yourself.
Once I actually started making a living as an illustrator doing book covers, which was something I thought I’d never really get to, then it was a question of—well, I’ve always wanted to do the John Carter Mars series and boom I got the assignment. These things just kind of came to me.
In fall, the sun sets on the west side of our property to shine through the trees. On a humid day, the light seems suspended in the thick air, spreading against the dark shapes of the trees, fanning golden brilliance across the green lawn.