What’s Up With….Michael Sprouse & Vintage Stuff in Contemporary Art?

by Fay Jacobs on October 7, 2010

Michael Sprouse loves old photographs. And matchbooks. And newspaper clippings. As a matter of fact, Michael, a local artist who splits his time between Lewes and Washington, DC. loves vintage memorabilia so much, he cannot wait to put a contemporary spin on it.

By melding old elements on paper with his abstract painting style, Michael produces unique mixed media collages that have people talking.

“People really respond to them,” says Michael, “in an interactive way.”

That’s because the combination of elements and abstract designs can tell whatever story the beholder wants to assign to it. “It’s open to interpretation,” says the artist.

This new work of Michael’s is quite different from the style which won him a stellar national reputation in the 1990s. At that time, he had his own gallery called Eklektikos (it means eclectic in Greek) in Washington, DC and was showing in cities like Atlanta, Nashville, Richmond, Bethesda, MD and more. His specialty was finding antique photographs and painting contemporary versions of the peoples’ faces.
“They were large scale portraits,” Michael says of the canvases that were shown at his gallery and at others.

In addition, during his Washington, DC years, Michael was asked to curate art shows at various embassies and for the Organization of American States headquarters on Massachusetts Avenue in the District of Columbia. “You never knew who was going to show up at the openings,” Michael says about the great melting pot that is Washington, DC.

So what prompted his move to Delmarva and a radical change in style? It’s a theme we hear over and over: the events of September 11, 2001. In addition to the tragic events of that day in New York, DC and the Pennsylvania countryside, there was a seismic shift in the business climate in this country. In addition to the economic chaos, people took stock of their lives and many decided they wanted a change.

Michael and his partner George Thomasson opted for a move to the beach. They checked out the Rehoboth/Lewes area and eventually closed their 12-year old gallery and headed East full-time.

Once here, Michael got involved in the local arts community, painting in his studio and showing at venues like the Philip Morton Gallery. His style evolved to smaller works, using a variety of vintage pieces to make his new collages and he is represented in numerous collectors’ homes in the beach area.

Michael, who has been honing his painting style since high school in Kentucky and as a college fine arts major, also has used his talent for arts promotion and digital design work. When he arrived here after 2001, there really weren’t any contemporary art spaces or galleries. But over the decade that has changed, with several venues hosting contemporary artwork and nurturing contemporary artists. “It’s been a welcome change,” says Michael.

And now things have come full circle for Michael. He’s rented a small studio back in Washington, D.C. and is intent on splitting his time between “lower slower Delaware” and the big city, to have the best of both art worlds in which to create his collages.

“I love the work,“ he says. “I enjoy searching out and selecting the elements and bringing them together to create a story on canvas. I use geometric shapes and abstract elements for this new kind of portraiture.”

And that’s what’s up with one of our amazing local artists. You can see his work at www.sprouseart.com.

Comments on this entry are closed.

[CoastalSussex] on Twitter[Coastal Sussex] on Facebook[Our] RSS Feed[Our] Email