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.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a 1997 interview I conducted with Michael Whelan shortly after his first one man show at Tree’s Place in Orleans, MA. While Whelan had been devoting more time to his personal visions since the early ’90s, the success of this gallery opening led to another Tree’s Place show in 1999 and his eventual departure from illustration as he shifted focus to his gallery work.
For a long time, you’ve talked about splitting time between illustration and your fine art work. What does each mean to you?
Well, my illustration was always my guiding light through the years. It was what I loved to do the most as a child and what I always sought to do and denied myself until I was almost through college, but once I started getting work as an illustrator it was the realization of a dream.
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.