Contemporary Folk Art Pop
I call my painting “Sophisticated Primitive.” It is “sophisticated” because of its subject matter and message and “primitive” because my technique usually involves a raw and direct approach, using bold lines and primary color palettes. I am a self-taught, figurative and expressionist artist, working primarily in acrylic. For subject matter, I draw from the imagination, dreams, jokes, family history, current or ancient events, famous people and paintings. Titles and narratives play a large part in my work – as do the use of humor, parody, and allusion.
My earliest influence was my father who was a florist by trade and an avid fisherman and storyteller. He shared with me his deep appreciation of artists, writers, and Native American history. My first introduction to art was in the Catholic church where, as a child, I was awe-stricken with its iconography and rituals. In elementary and high school, I saved myself from bullies with my sense of humor via stories and drawings, usually mocking unsuspecting teachers. A creative writing teacher in high school encouraged me to pursue my writing and art in more serious settings. At the local junior college, I majored in English and took the only formal art class I have had.
The music of Bob Dylan and John Lennon inspired me to think, relate, wonder, and feel, as have many of the master artists: Chagall, Kahlo, Modigliani, Picasso, Rosseau, Van Gogh, and Warhol, to name a few. I have also admired the work of New Mexico artist, David Bradley, and the anonymous painters of the Yugoslavian Primitive School. As many artists have done throughout time, I learned to paint by doing it and by emulating the masters but in my own style with twists and variations to express myself.
I often refer to my Polish ancestry in my artwork. One of my longest running series, “Selling My Own Grandmother,” features one of my Polish grandmothers, Anna Andryc. She serves as an archetype, the Baba Yaga in world cultures, a symbol of the strength, inherent power, and imagination of the Immigrant–American experience. I was fortunate to have a solo exhibition by that title at the American Center for Polish Culture in Washington, DC, in 1997. Her adventures – and misadventures – continue to touch upon the best and worst in the human condition. I am hopeful that her antics will bring joy and healing to a world seemingly gone awry.
I call my work “Sophisticated Primitive” – “sophisticated” because of its subject matter and message – and “primitive” because my technique sometimes involves a raw and direct approach. I am a self-taught, figurative and expressionist artist. Titles and narratives are of utmost importance to me and play a large part in my work – as do the use of humor, parody, and allusion. For subject matter, I draw from the imagination, dreams, jokes, family history, current or ancient events, famous people and paintings – it is all grist for the mill.
I often refer to my Polish ancestry in my artwork. One of my longest running series, Selling My Own Grandmother, incorporates my Polish grandmother, Anna Andryc. These paintings were featured in a solo show at the American Center for Polish Culture in Washington, DC, in 1997. Most recently, a dozen newer images in this series were shown in a solo PORTAL exhibit in 2018 at the Fuller Lodge Art Center in Los Alamos, NM.
My grandmother serves as an archetype, the Baba Yaga in world cultures, as a symbol of the brute strength, inherent power, and imagination of the Immigrant–American experience. My grandmother’s spirit often saves me (and the world) with her cautionary tales and sage advice. On the other hand, she is sometimes a harbinger of the darker side of human nature. Her adventures – and misadventures – are not merely my own but touch upon the best and worst in the human condition. I am hopeful that her antics will bring joy and healing to a world seemingly gone wrong.
In some of my paintings, I pay tribute to various artists and even rework their offerings to convey new meanings. Usually, my goal is to inject some much-needed levity into an art world that oftentimes takes itself far too seriously. However, I try to do this lovingly and I don’t even spare myself as one of the subjects. Series such as: Final Masterpieces of Picasso, the Lesser (The Blue Period Re-painted); Not by Marc (Chagall); Scavenging from Rouault - are only a few examples of how I have altered – and learned from by parodying – some of the world’s most famous artworks.
Modern artists from the Impressionists to the Cubists to the Neo-Expressionists have influenced me. Some of my very favorite artists are: Chagall, Picasso, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Modigliani, and Henri Rousseau. In addition, I especially admire the painters of the Yugoslavian Primitive School; others are too numerous to mention.
In the end, not all of my paintings contain some heavy message or meaning – hidden or not. Some of them are just for joy and I had fun painting them, too. Be whatever as it may, my hope is that people enjoy my work, make art a vital part of their lives, and that I am able to continue doing what I believe I was born to do.
- Michael Andryc