I am Cadence Croucher and I recently graduated from UNCG with a degree in Arts Administration and I have the pleasure of interning at GreenHill this summer. I had the opportunity to interview GreenHill’s Pop-Up Resident Micah Daw. I picked his brain about the start of his career, his painting process, and his life as a teacher. It was fun to get to learn about the experiences that Micah has had that influence his work.
CC: You shared in your artist statement that you source images and forms from your immediate surroundings and I was wondering does your process with these images look like?
MD: It’s a two-part process.
The genesis of my work is taking an image that I have found and combining it with other images. I have my images on transparencies that float around my studio. I place these images on a projector that I have in my studio. For example, I’ll take an image of people walking on the beach and then combine it with an image of a hydron collider or a pine cone. Instead of sourcing the images based on what they are I source them by what resonates with me from the image compositionally. Meaning you can take a picture of the same thing and it might not be as interesting from the other direction. Not that I have anything important to say about people at the beach or anything important to say about science, I don’t feel that way, but I do feel like our relationship to images has somewhat changed in my lifetime and it’s always going to be changing. I do that to create a confusion or a loss or a tension in the work right out of the gate. You take one image and put it over another and now you’ve made something that is pretty abstract. I move those images around and I trace them onto a canvas, and I paint them all down and then contemplate my next steps.
The second part of my process is coming up with a strategy. Every day I am at my studio before I pack up, I take a piece of blank paper and I press it on my pallet from the paintings. I pick it up and let it dry and then that is the beginning of a drawing that I can puzzle with and solve.
Those are the main themes behind that process that I am working with right now which is this idea of structural form vs. organic form. There’s always a versus in my work I’m always putting things at odds with each other. If I make a flat shape, then I’ll make a shape that references 3D depth.
CC: What was your start in art, from a young age?
MD: The first memory I have doing anything art related was drawing with my brother. We got into skateboarding where there is a whole visual culture around skateboarding especially in the 80s and 90s including graphics, advertisements, logos, and the look of skateboarders, and I tried to draw all of it. This was my introduction into any sort of visual creation. After that I got into music and I was really into early 90s punk and experimental. There is a whole visual culture and a lot of famous artists that sprung out of that culture and that is where I got my start.
CC: Were you an artist before you started teaching? How did teaching come into play in your art career?
MD: I was an artist first and then I started teaching. I got my undergraduate degree at The University of Florida. I didn’t think about teaching until I went to graduate school at Ohio State university. As part of the program as soon as I started, I was in charge of teaching a class. Others saw as another assignment, but I found it rewarding right away. My classmates would always complain about teaching, but I found myself really getting into the teaching side. Even the artwork I make now has been influenced by teaching by breaking things down to a basic level like how a picture works and what metaphors are implied by certain devices that are used in image making. This brought me into abstraction before that I was painting a lot of different illustrative works.
CC: I noticed that you like to use a lot of colors in your pieces- do you have a system for what colors to use?
MD: Yes, I do have a system for colors but no, I don’t pre-plan all the color relationships. I know enough about color theory to where if I put a color down and let it dry, I can respond by adding another color. My system is not haphazard its intended, just not pre planned. This process is improvisation based in my knowledge of color theory. I like to use high intensity color because it gives a painting an oddness but also approaching, something that feels ideal and beautiful and at the same time ugly.
I enjoyed getting to interview Micah and getting the inside scoop on what it is like to create artwork as a professional artist. It gave me a new perspective on abstract art that I had never thought of before.