W. Michael Bush oversees major art project at the Area 61 Gallery
One of the most audacious collaborations in Chattanooga’s history is happening right now at the Area 61 Gallery on East Main Street. The innovative mind of W. Michael Bush has conceived of a brilliant piece that combines the work of 21 local artists.
The Pulse sat down with Bush to ask a couple of questions about the new project and his background as an artist.
The Pulse: What can you tell us about the project?
W. Michael Bush: The name of this particular project is Controlled Chaos. I started with an iconic image for the city of Chattanooga. I did a drawing of the image onto a 3x7 foot wood panel. I did the original drawing on paper, then I did an overlay on acetate and projected that from an overhead projector onto the panel.
Then I took another 3x7 panel and projected the same image, same lines in the exact same areas. That was divided into 1 foot squares, and we took it to the table saw and cut it into 1x1 foot chunks, which gave us 21 individual 1x1 foot squares. Those were randomly numbered on the back so that no one could take panel 1 and put it with panel 2 and begin to come up with what I was doing.
Then, about three weeks ago, we brought the pieces down to Area 61. Keeli and David had assembled 21 artists, and I had 21 bags that each had one panel in it and a brief description of what we are doing. Not the subject matter, but a description in the sense that the lines must be retained in some fashion.
They didn’t have to be left exactly as I had made them, but needed to be the same shape. If they wanted to change the color or make it three dimensional I didn’t have a problem with that. I just needed to have it intersect with the next door square at the same point and be following the line that I had drawn.
All 21 artists were game.
Our next meeting will be June 25th at Area 61, in which they will be asked to return those 21 panels. Then we will bring those 21 panels back to my studio and adhere them to the master panel. At that point I will put the image onto it and see if there needs to be any fine tuning adjustments to make the image come out. Hopefully that’s all I will need to do to it.
At that point they will each stand as individual pieces in a quilt of artwork that will ultimately tell the overall story of the image I have chosen. The finished painting will be exhibited at the Chamber of Commerce, and the proceeds will be donated to a charity.
TP: Tell us about your creative background.
WMB: I grew up in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Art is all I’ve ever done. From the time I was a small child, it was my direction.
I always liked to draw and paint from elementary school on. I was very lucky by the time I was a senior in high school to have the good fortune of having an art instructor who was fresh out of college. He was not burned out on teaching, and enthusiastic about young artists. The metal shop instructor passed away, and I was given the metal shop as my studio.
I went to Jacksonville University, then I went to Ringling School of the Arts in Sarasota and got my Bachelor’s degree. After that I went to Chicago to the Art Institute, and audited two classes. I left there and went to Mexico to the Instituto Allende in San Miguel.
After coming back to the States, I got a job in motion pictures as a scenic artist and was a set painter for twenty years. My big claim to fame is I’m one of the guys who painted the sharks in the Jaws movies. I did other films including Caddyshack, Porky’s, and Absence of Malice.
When Dino De Laurentis built his North Carolina studio in Wilmington, I did Firestarter, Cat’s Eye, Marie, and a whole string of movies. I worked frequently in Atlanta doing Invasion USA and 6-Pack. I almost always worked on location in the Southeast. I did predominantly feature films.
The last project I did was in Orlando when they opened up Universal Studios. I was getting too old and tired to do that anymore, so I closed up shop, bought farm land in Middle Tennessee, and went back to pure painting.
I exhibit in galleries stretching from Florida up to the Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. I’m happy to just continue to paint.