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Mike Rea Interview
Written by Ryan Christian   
Friday, 22 February 2008 04:36
Chicago based artist who crafts some amazing works out of wood.

"There are many like it but this one is mine" 2007 wood, burlap
Throughout my formative days in school I eventually decided that almost everyone is pretty willy nilly in the wood shop. Maybe my generation has phobia of power tools to some extent or a larger ratio of us are mega sensitive to saw dust. It could have been a geographical concern, but I didn't think that the case either being that I was in rural Illinois. The tightest thing I had even seen made out of wood was maybe a big tree, or a really fancy birdhouse, or the structure of a swanky home being built. There wasn't anything interesting and wooden in my life.

Then back in 2006, I go to this Mike Rea guys opening at the Butcher Shop/ Dogmatic Gallery in Chicago. The space (a very large one) was jam packed with these, super elaborate, grandiose, all wooden sculptures. I had never been immediately engaged by work like that before upon entering a gallery, it was more like walking in to a theme park than an art show.

Since then he has continued to artistically push it to the limit and top himself over and over again. I even saw him eat a bacon cheddar burger pretzel dog once, that's ambition.

On top of already having a very healthy exhibition list, Mike will be having a solo exhibition @ The Contemporary Arts Center of Virginia in April. He will also have a piece in the upcoming group show Chimera Frontiera @ Junc Gallery, also in April. Even more stuff in the cross-country, traveling silent auction, beer drinking show – Baby Robots, and then shortly afterwards he will be building a time machine for the Germans. -Ryan Christian

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"Put a monkey in space if Remo Williams can't do it," 2005. wood, burlap, rope

Who are you? What do you do and why should we care?

Well, my name is Michael Rea. 32, brown hair and eyes, 6', about 190 lbs. , and I like long walks by the beach. I am a sculptor from the South suburbs of Chicago. I currently reside in Milwaukee. I am desperately working on an exit strategy for myself. Wisconsin is slowly crushing my soul. Why you should care, is beyond me.

What kind of work were you making at school as a beginner? How did it evolve into mammoth size, epic sculptures?

As a beginner I worked primarily as a painter, and it seems that everyone in painting will tell you to go bigger. So I guess I followed their advice and started making large-scale paintings. When I switched to making sculptures, about three year out of undergrad, I wanted to make things that were human in scale. More specifically my scale. I rarely sketch I simple start cutting something out. In most cases I will refer to my body to gage the scale. When I started, I built everything in an apartment I had in Chicago. Things became cramped very quickly. I had to put my bed in a closet. Shortly after switching to sculpture I left Chicago to attend graduate school. I think it might have been a mixture of the competitive atmosphere of graduate school and a large studio that really pushed me into what you refer to as an epic scale. A friend of mine has a pet python. I remember when he first got it; it was a little bigger than a worm. I asked him "how big will it get?" He replied, "lets just say you won't lose it in the lawn." I guess I want to make things that don't get lost in the lawn.

2.jpg
"Crates" 2006. spray-paint, wood, pink foam

Since your projects are so involved and costly, how do you go about constructing one of your pieces?

Well, I start. It's as simple as that. I start at one end and work through the composition. I try to use cheap materials: pine, mahogany-luan, rope, burlap, and pink foam. This way I tend to get the most bang for my buck. I real don't plan anything. Yes I have an idea of what I want or what I am going to make but that's about it. It's a very linear process, much like drawing. I am never sure how much something will cost in the long run. If I did, I might worry. So I have about a hundred dollar a month wood habit. Since I quit smoking it has been really easy to afford supplies. The real problem is moving these pieces around. Shipping is expensive, and in most cases I have to drive the work out myself. The largest vehicle I can legally drive is a 25' truck. The twenty-five footer is a nightmare. The only thing that really kills me is the cost of gas and truck rentals. Building time and materials are not really an issue for me.

Do you find yourself facing a lot of limitations due to your style? How does making large sculpture affect your artistic career as opposed to say being an artist who works exclusively on paper?

I guess there are limitations, but the grass is always going to be greener somewhere else. It seems a little harder to sell large sculptures than lets say a work on paper, but if sales were driving me I probably wouldn't be an artist. I am not saying a sale or two wouldn't hurt. In fact I do sell a lot of the smaller pieces I make, which is great. I hope that someday there will be a market for the larger works, but I will have to wait and see how that plays out. There always seems to be a lot of support for large work in residencies and as a visiting artist. I like the idea of traveling somewhere and building something huge and leaving. All you need for that is a plane ticket. I have also found that large bold pieces tend to attract a lot of attention and this has helped a lot with getting more shows and and creating new opportunities. I really cannot complain. It seems every year I show a little more, and a little less comes out of my pocket. That's about all you can ask for.

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"Lysistrata" 2005 wood, burlap, rope, pink-foam

5.jpg
"Wood Load in" 2004 wood, burlap, rope

It's surprising that you have all of your fingers left, any good studio related injuries?

A few, but for the most part I have been lucky and or smart. The key is to keep your finger away from the spinning blade. The worst accident I have had is I once shot a brad nail through my pointer finger. I was shooting down into the cross cut of a doll rod with a 1,1/4" Brad. The dowl was about the same in diameter. and a little less in length. The nail fish-hooked out and went right into the finger holding the rod in place. The nail entered the pad and exited under the nail bed. When I felt the impact I pulled my finger away. This worked well since I did not have to think about removing the nail it just sort of happened. I had not realized at this point, that I had shoot right through my finger. I looked at the palm side of my finger and wondered how deep the nail had gone. This is when I noticed that the other side was bleeding as well. Can you believe I didn't even get vicodin for that?

6.jpg
"Olympia" 2007. wood, burlap, rope, yarn, and sometimes a woman

What kinds of things influence your work, besides Indiana Jones?

Well motion pictures in general are a big source of inspiration for me. I have always enjoyed how people will quote lines from a movie. I like how for a few seconds the line between fiction and reality is blurred. I tend to like horror and science fiction films the most. I also like to think about time travel from time to time. Television is a big thing for me as well. I love inappropriate jokes, and I like to incorporate humor into a lot of my pieces as well. Music is good. I tend to spend long hours building and when things are not to loud I listen to music. As I said earlier, I do not start with a plan. This creates an opening to develop or change an idea while I am building. While I am working on a project I am constantly absorbing the world around me and my perspective on a piece may shift. Sometimes in minor increments, and in other instances quit dramatically.

Baby robots is just around the corner, could you talk about that for a minute, maybe drum up some business?

Baby Robots is a show that my good friend Dave Teng Olsen created three years ago. The show started in Madison Wisconsin, where the two of us went to graduate school. Dave created and ran the show the first two years and I gave it a go last year. The idea was to have a show of small works, which could be purchased at a reasonable price. The show is hung salon style, and there is an auction at the opening. Beer is served and bids are written on the wall in pencil next to the pieces. It is usually a little wild toward the end when people really start fighting for a piece. Most artists' start their bids low. There are usually some great deals. The show is usually a nice opportunity to buy work at an affordable price. Each year the show has expanded as we meet more artists. This spring there will be shows in the following seven cities. Chicago, IL, LA, Cal, San Francisco, Memphis, Madison. What we have asked this year is that artists make seven pieces of work that are no bigger than 10x10x10"or 10x10". The first show will be in April, and last in June. I think it is going to be a blast, and I am looking forward to traveling around and seeing all the new work. If this year goes well next year will be even bigger. For details about the shows; or how to participate, and the when, and the where, go to the Baby Robot site.

7.jpg
"In to the wild blue Yonder," 2005. wood, burlap, pink-foam, audio

What kinds of projects can we expect to see from you in the near future?

I am currently working on a piece involving carbonite and myself. I am also interested in making a piece that deals with exorcism. I just confirmed that I will be traveling to Germany this summer to build a time machine. I feel in the new global theater, America should give back. While we received so much help from German scientists in building the first nuclear bomb. The least we could do is help them build a time machine.

I was just thinking about this, did you realize nowadays 18 year olds were born in 1990?

That is a quit an astonishing piece of arithmetic. Are you trying to make me feel old? I feel like I should quote Matthew McConaughey's line from Dazed and Confused. One has to remember men only get hotter as they get older. I cannot wait to get my first gray hairs. This of course will be my ticket to Clooney-Ville. So everyman born in the mid 70's is about to self-actualize in Mazlo's heirchy of hot.

8.jpg
"Brown Thunder" 2006 wood, burlap, rope, pink-foam, casters. 15'x6'x 2006

You have lived in Chicago and Wisconsin for quite some time, what's it like being a Midwesterner?

What are all those east coast/west coast folks missing out on? Besides Chicago's championed pizza obviously. I am sorry but I cannot answer this question right now. Since December, it has either been snowing or below zero. Well there was one day, where it got up to 60 degrees, but there was a tornado and severe thunderstorms to accompany the freakish warm up. I am being extremely serious. There has been 68 inches of snow in the last two months. There is not much I can say for Wisconsin, but there is nothing sexier than Chicago in Spring....

Name drop list, what is tickling your fancy right now?

Fergie, MIA, Folkert de Jung, Ben Stone, No Country For Old Men, Soft Pretzels, Peroni, Jens Lekman, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, Cloverfield, Jaws, Lolita, the 27th directors cut of blade runner, thongs, Alex Katz, Robert Morris, Hey Willpower, Paris Hilton, Klarbrunn water, Paul McCarthy, Grind House (in the theater)

9.jpg
"Ark of The Covenant" 2007 wood, florescent lights, rope, and God

Any good advice? We need it.

A stitch in time saves nine. You gotta pay your dues before you pay the rent

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"A Prosthetic Suit For Stephen Hawking w/ Japanese Steel" 2007 wood, rope, pink foam
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contact FF

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 17:39


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ABOUT HEADLANDS
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Wednesday, 25 August 2010 12:50


 

 


 

 

 

//////// INSTAGRAM ----- FECAL_FACE

 

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Serge Gay Jr. @Spoke Art

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Sun Milk in Vienna

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Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery

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Jeremy Fish Solo Show in Los Angeles

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The Albatross and the Shipping Container

Beautiful piece entitled "The Albatross and the Shipping Container", Ink on Paper, Mounted to Panel, 47" Diameter, by San Francisco based Martin Machado now on display at FFDG. Stop in Saturday (1-6pm) to view the group show "Salt the Skies" now running through April 19th. 2277 Mission St. at 19th.


The Marsh Barge - Traveling the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to quit my job, move out of my house, leave everything and travel again. So on August 21, 2013 I pushed a canoe packed full of gear into the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, along with four of my best friends. Exactly 100 days later, I arrived at a marina near the Gulf of Mexico in a sailboat.


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