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Michael Ray Workman

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Michael Ray Workman

(1959 - )

Born in 1959, Michael Workman grew up on his family's small farm in Highland, Utah. Although he had a child's natural aversion to chores, he is grateful for his childhood experiences, recognizing their role in the development of his love of the outdoors and of rural life and his strong work ethic-a background that continues to affect his paintings. As a youth, he became interested in the LDS Church, and after being taught by a neighbor, joined the Church and later served a mission in Melbourne, Australia. After his mission, Workman attended Brigham Young University, majoring in drawing and painting. He worked his way through school as an Architectural Illustrator for Rick Kinateder, of Orem, and he continued to work as an illustrator after graduation from BYU. However, he soon became restless and returned to BYU, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree. Like other students, Michael participated in the yearly student art exhibits at BYU, and at one exhibit, a representative of Meyer Gallery noticed his work and asked to represent Workman. He continues to sell his work through Meyer in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and in Scottsdale, Arizona. He also teaches workshops in Utah, Texas, and Arizona. Michael Workman has been an invited artist at several major exhibitions including the Artists of America shows in Denver, Colorado; Northwest Rendezvous in Park City, Utah; Western Classics Show in Scottsdale, Arizona; "As They See It" Show at the Salt Lake City, Utah, Art Center; and the "LDS Artists" Exhibit at the LDS Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake. In addition, Workman has been featured in several publications including Leading the West - 100 Contemporary Painters and Sculptors, by Don Hagerty, and in Utah Painting and Sculpture, by Dr. Vern G. Swanson. His work was featured on the cover sheet of the novel Lonesome Land, from Bison Books. Articles about Michael and his work have appeared in magazines such as Southwest Art, Focus/Santa Fe Art Talk, Art of the West, and Utah Business. Michael's many years of work as an architectural illustrator show in the quality and ease of his draftsmanship. The new Dictionary of Utah Art terms Workman " . . . an outstanding tonal realist painter" who ". . . is considered one of the major American Contemporary Tonalist painters." For the last five years Michael has made his living as a gallery artist. He lives in the historic town of Spring City, Utah, with his wife and five children, surrounded by the rural scenery he loves, working on paintings, and dabbling in agriculture with his own small "gentleman's farm." Workman started painting cows in graduate school when he was trying to find out how and what he wanted to paint. He chose cows because he had memories of them from his childhood, because they have geometric shapes that are easy to compose, and because they work well as metaphors for our physical existence and can be juxtaposed or set in such a way as to contrast with a spiritual existence-the light. He completed a series of paintings with cows and believes that In Darkness-Nevertheless Illuminated is the most successful of that series. Workman says he tries to paint so there is as much in each painting as an individual viewer wants to get from it. Therefore, his paintings work as paintings of rural scenes, they also have painterly qualities that appeal to artists and art historians or connoisseurs, and they have a poetic quality, layers of depth and meaning, that center on man's purpose on earth and what life means. It is these qualities that induce Dr. Vern Swanson, Director of the Springville Museum of Art, to label Workman an Academic Visionary. Michael and six other artists recently spent two months in Europe, traveling through England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Italy. They went to as many art museums as possible and also spent time in the countryside taking photographs and making sketches. After they returned home and had each completed some works, they had a show of their work at the Springville Museum of Art, called "Seven through Seven." Workman says that seeing such a lot of European Art strengthened his orientation and ideas about art because so much of art throughout history is spiritual and religious. Workman says he doesn't see his art as likely to go through radical changes. In graduate school one of his teachers said to Michael that he seemed to be "carefully feeling his way along." Workman believes that assessment of his process of creating is accurate, and he thinks that process will continue. He doesn't want to get stale or to get in a rut of painting what sells, over and over; but he believes he is headed in the right direction, that he has found the kind of work he wants to do. He does expect to produce more figurative work over the next few years, as a result of the art he saw on his European trip. Michael Workman says he made a conscious decision to create artworks that appeal to those viewers without an education in the arts-to produce paintings that are successful as attractive scenes and to also have the pieces appeal to artists and to the educated or naturally poetic people who look for and find layers of meaning in his paintings, which contain both universal symbolic meanings as well as being open ended enough to invite the viewer to tie into his or her own experiences and understanding. In Darkness - Nevertheless Illuminated is a good example of that complexity - in addition to being well painted and designed, the painting offers viewers a chance to examine what light and darkness mean to them and to go about the business of increasing their understanding of what life is all about.

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