Mike Holsomback is respected equally as painter and professor
If the art world were a republic like the ONE in “Star Wars”, then Mike Holsomback would definitely be a Jedi Master. Chattanooga State’s drawing and painting guru is also a celebrated artist with a list of credentials too long to reprint here, and his art is stunning, to say the least.
The visual vocabulary demonstrated in his work is diverse without being verbose, his compositions taut and impressive. His work ranges in style from highly realistic to formally abstract, and many of his paintings combine these elements in a collage-like explosion of color and imagery. He likes to work large, sometimes creating monumental canvas assemblages that are intimidating and endearing at the same time.
Mike grew up in rural North Georgia, earned his BFA in drawing and painting from the University of Georgia in 1984, and was already working in the art department at East Tennessee State University before receiving his MFA in painting and printmaking there in 1989.
He began teaching immediately, and was for a time working at Chattanooga State, UTC, and Cleveland State Community College simultaneously. His career as a teacher has propelled his career as an artist to incredible heights, and he is now one of Chattanooga’s most well respected individuals in both disciplines. He is currently exhibiting a painting in the Red Clay Survey, the Huntsville Museum of Art’s 2014 Exhibition of Contemporary Southern Art.
Tony Mraz: What was the first piece of art you ever made?
Michael Holsomback: I always liked to draw and color when I was in elementary school. I remember entering a coloring book contest when I was 5 or 6. I won first place, which included some type of prize, as I remember. I guess I was hooked by the fame and fortune!
TP: How are you inspired?
MH: As Chuck Close says, “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just get to work,”
TM: Why do artists choose to create?
MH: Because we can.
TM: What are a few of the most important fundamentals of making art?
MH: For me, the aesthetics of the surface is first and foremost. Line quality, paint layering, surface vibration; it’s all about moving the media around on the surface with confidence and sensitivity.
TM: What makes a composition good or bad?
MH: In the postmodern world, I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a bad composition.
TM: How has teaching art affected your work as an artist?
MH: Much of what I know about making art, I have learned as I attempt to teach others how to draw and paint.With over 20-plus years of teaching and practicing art, I feel confident in my abilities in both of these worlds. I have many, many former students who I am very proud of. Their success is my reward. My accomplishments are due in large part, to the struggles the students and I have gone through together.
TM: What is some of the most common advice you give to your students?
MH: Before all else, drawing is about line quality and painting is about the paint.You must know your media first before you can use that media as a tool for visual communication.
TM: If you had to choose two famous artists to go fishing with, who would they be?
MH: Max Beckmann and Richard Diebenkorn.
TM: What kind of music do you listen to when you’re working in studio?
TM: Does art that addresses the future manifest events or ideas?
MH: No matter how much I would like to be a prophet, I cannot see, nor address the future,
TM: Is there a moral or philosophical reason for your choice of subject matter?
MH: The current work, sometimes referred to as the “cock and bull” series, is concerned with the absence of philosophical statements, the absence of meaning, and the inadequacy of language. These paintings are vivid visual myths; myths which I initiate, but do not fully own. They are inherently narrative in nature and their stories scream of revelation and desperately seek validation. They scream, “Look at me!” But, they have become eclectic and incomprehensible. And within a pluralistic 21st century, where any search for universal truth seems a vain and hopeless enterprise, they have become Cock and Bull Stories.
TM: What are your three favorite movies?
MH: “Broken Flowers”, “Lost in Translation”, and “American Beauty”.
TM: How does failure or success affect artists?
MH: Depends on the personality of the artist. Does failure drive one to greater achievements? Does success give birth to complacency and mediocrity?
To view an online catalog of Mike Holsomback’s work and full listing of previous shows, visit his website at mikeholsomback.com.