18 Nov Illuminations: Ones to watch
Mike Weber’s mixed-media work celebrates the instincts of the untamed. An avid backpacker and kayaker, Weber always has his camera with him in the wilderness and incorporates those photos into his work.
“I think it’s important to remember these wild animals in nature,” he says. “It allows me to connect with what I think of as the real world.”
Weber works with digital photographs printed on giant archival film with large-format printers. The backgrounds are painted with acrylic and made to look rustic and old, an inspiration that comes from the dilapidated German and Dutch homesteads near where he grew up. This nostalgia taps into our shared human past and references the perfectly ruined, decayed signage from a life lived. Contrasting that with the idea of an untouched natural world, Weber wants to show how man has devolved through constant reliance on technology.
“We live in a manmade world, and the animals that know how to work in collective groups increase their chance of survival and reproduction,” he says. “If you ever watch a herd of deer or elk they know to run uphill in high water, and humans don’t. We’re too busy looking down at our phones and our iPads.”
Weber’s most recent work consists of two distinct series: black and color. The black series uses a combination of gold leaf, acrylic paint, photography and resin on archival panel to explore a more striking, graphic approach. The color series is similar in technique and style but focuses on underwater creatures. The combination of silver leaf and resin creates a three-dimensional effect.
“It’s fun to watch people in the gallery,” Weber says. “They often ask if it’s backlit; it appears as if you can reach in and touch the animal. I discovered this by playing around with materials. I prefer not to work with resin, it’s messy and difficult, but for this application it’s a perfect combination and breathes life into the subject matter.”
Because Weber uses digital photography, he is able to create editions, although each painting is individual, not a true copy. He creates six editions and one artist proof for each image.
A third series is based on the quilts Weber grew up with in the Midwest. “My grandmother was a quilt maker and the backgrounds in the chicken pieces are from her quilts,” he says. “My work is a combination of old school and new school. For the old rustic images in my work, most people don’t realize the amount of digital set up they require. But the most fun part for me is painting. When you move paint on a panel, unexpected things happen that become processes in my work. There’s a lot of discovery in my playing with paint.”
Weber is represented by Visions West in Bozeman and Livingston, Montana, Denver, Colorado, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Gebert Contemporary in Scottsdale, Arizona; La Jolla Gallery in La Jolla, California; Melissa Morgan Fine Art in Palm Desert, California; and Longview Gallery in Washington, D.C.