Once upon an app, with bated breath…
By Tom Wachunas
“…Each piece is like a page from a book, only neither the beginning of the story nor the ending is always clear. Some of the stories are obvious; some are hidden a little deeper. Like a good adventure story, we wait with bated breath as we turn the page and continue reading.” - Michael Weiss
“We are entering the Age of Integration! ...The digital artist is the vehicle to that kind of cultural change. We are the first generation of this new breed and we will most surely be remembered...for we bring a quake of expression and technique that makes the art world very uncomfortable and that is as it should be. “ – Gene Hirsch
“Art is, now, mainly a form of thinking.” – Susan Sontag
“Fine art is knowledge made visible.” - Gustave Courbet
EXHIBIT: Whimsical Worlds of Wonder by Michael Weiss / Studio M exhibition at the Massillon Museum, THROUGH APRIL 2, 2017 / 121 Lincoln Way East (Ohio Route 172) in downtown Massillon / 330-833-4061 / Viewing hours: Tuesday through Saturday 9:30am - 5:00pm, Sunday 2:00pm - 5:00pm www.michaelweiss.carbonmade.com www.massillonmuseum.org
Full disclosure: What you are about to read is rooted in unabashed self-plagiarism. I’ve copied and pasted much of the content, while tweaking a few phrases here and there, from a review I wrote back in January, 2014, of an exhibit of Michael Weiss’s work (interestingly enough under the same title as this current show at Massillon Museum) at Malone University’s McFadden Gallery. Here’s a link, in case you’re interested: http://artwach.blogspot.com/2014/01/once-upon-time.html
More full disclosure. I’m doing this because even though I have nothing substantially new to add to what I wrote three years ago about Weiss’s pictorial content or methodology, I still think this current exhibit is fascinating enough to merit our continuing attentions. That said, it has prompted some additional considerations along conceptual lines, which I’ll elaborate a bit more at the end of this post.
Meanwhile, Michael Weiss lists all the works here as “digital illustrations,” and collectively they exude an epic air – as in a sweeping, ongoing narrative. Call it a representational saga spanning love and longing, loss and discovery, desire and fulfillment. Aside from the facile digital wizardry evident in these images, they amply demonstrate that Weiss is a mesmerizing storyteller.
His pictures are enchanted scenarios that found their beginnings in book titles and quotes, song lyrics, and even movie taglines. But then, somewhere in the artist’s fertile imagination, such snippets of inspiration (sometimes identifiable enough by their titles) seem to have taken flight into unexpected dimensions. They range from delightfully narcotic, eerily tranquil dreamscapes (that occasionally bring to mind the paintings of surrealists Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte) to more lyrical meditations on the mystical. Yet even at their most haunting or strange, these visions still reside in the comfortable neighborhood of the familiar and accessible.
Weiss has mastered a digital technique that gives his surfaces a stressed, aged look that can convey a sense of timelessness. The characters that populate his locales – rendered as if seen through scratched glass - might well represent actual individuals and situations from his life. But they could just as well have something in common with our circumstances, caught as we might be in the misty thrall our own dreams and journeys. That’s the universal allure of stories. All of us have them, and telling them is but one of the traditional functions of “representational art” that continues to this day in our culture.
Is this, then, what we mean by illustration? If so, must the visual art about our stories be necessarily limited to mimetic transcriptions (albeit with some quirky stylistic embellishments) of tangible reality? Seeing Weiss’s pieces gathered here was a déjà vu experience, to be sure. It made me wonder. Two or three years from now, will his work have the same overall look? Or will he have outgrown his dependable (though certainly intriguing) image-making formula into something even more compelling while still true to the stories he wants to tell? I wait with bated breath.
PHOTOS, from top: 1. Roots / 2. The Keeper/ 3. The Island was Never in the Same Place Again / 4. Out for a Walk