Art In High Fidelity
As an artist, my duty is to fidelity—fidelity to my own truths and ideas, to document my journey through life as a member of the human race,” bush says in his artist statement. Being true to himself is the easy part. Finding his place in the art world has not always been easy.
Bush, who studied at the Ringling School of Art, the Instituto Allende in San Miguel, Mexico, and the Art Institute of Chicago, saw a change in the art world towards conceptual art he felt he couldn’t follow and remain true to himself. “I couldn’t produce what the public was wanting to buy,” he says. What followed was a hiatus from painting. “I couldn’t embrace that and feel comfortable with it,” Bush says, citing the example of Damien Hirst who put a shark in a giant tank of formaldehyde and sold it for millions of dollars. Bush waited patiently, having faith that the public’s tastes would turn back and he would find his place again. And it did.
Born in Florida, Bush spent years as a scenic artist for films, working on blockbusters like Jaws and Firestarter while painting on the side. Eventually he left the film world and settled in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, where he paints eight hours a day, seven days a week in his light-filled studio. He is prolific, and the public snaps up his paintings. On one occasion eight of his paintings sold as they were being hung in a gallery, before they even made it onto the wall.
Bush’s figurative paintings are whimsical, colorful, and full of rhythm. His mixed-media series, which pairs objects like shoes, typewriters, and musical instruments with abstract paintings of the same object, are anthems to Bush’s perception that “everything is art. Everything around us is designed by somebody.” As an example he picks up a drinking glass with ribbed sides. “Someone took time to design this glass. These ridges are on there for a reason. But it’s also aesthetic.”
Bush’s current project was inspired by New York artist Ray Johnson, whose “mail art” project involved sending partially done postcards to friends for collaboration. Bush has executed the first in the series The Gulf Coast, drawing an iconic image from the region on a large canvas, cutting the canvas into twenty-eight sections, rolling them inside plastic pop bottles, and setting them free at sea. The messages in a bottle include instructions to add whatever the finder chooses and send it back to Bush, who will then reassemble the pieces into a quilt. “I want the sense of magic that can occur by not having control all the time,” he says. Tennessee poet laureate Maggi Vaughn dropped the first load in the Gulf of Mexico in the middle of June. Subsequent series will be set free in the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Hudson River.
Bush doesn’t see a time limit on the completion of these pieces. The quilts may be assembled like a jigsaw puzzle still in progress. His friend, sculptor Russ Faxon, said, “Wouldn’t it be fun if a hundred years from now someone walks into a museum and says, ‘Didn’t Grampa have something in his desk?’ and they go back and find the missing piece.” Bush smiles at the thought. “It certainly enhances my life expectancy in the art world.”
Bush’s faith is unwavering. His fidelity to his art is absolute.
“I’m expressing my feelings, my ideas on a canvas. I’ve been offended by some artwork out there that always dwells on the negative. Artwork for eons has been on the uplifting side. It’s been elevating man.”
Michael Bush possesses a beautiful belief in mankind. He reaches out to us with joyful artwork that dances with color, a reminder that art doesn’t always have to have a dark side—it can just make us smile.
M. bush is represented by york and Friends Gallery. yorkandfriends.com/workszoom/797955/w-michael-bushw michaelbushartist.com