Michael Zachary is a longtime Boston-based artist who has had his work shown across the country. Inspired by the technicality and manipulation of art and its mediums, with only pen and ink, Zachary creates drawings using a unique method that utilizes simple marks in four different colors to create full images. These images only come into focus from a distance; in Zachary’s works, the whole appears much more uniform than one might begin to understand when looking up close.
The artist has a deep interest in technology and machines, and our relationship to them, which demonstrably plays a crucial role in the form, composition, and workings of his artistic pieces. On Zachary’s own website, we learn about the inspirations and conceptual drives that exist behind his work: “In [Zachary’s] drawings, he imagines that he is the computational algorithm inside a computer chip, processing sensory “data” and sorting it into modular units. Given those limitations, he asks himself how he can find the poetry and humanity inherent in this “mechanical” way of thinking and hand processing… In a way he is trying to turn his mind and body into the world’s slowest, least efficient digital camera and microprocessor to see what will happen,”.
Zachary now creates from his studio in East Boston and teaches as an assistant professor of art at Simmons University. We were lucky enough to have the chance to ask Zachary more about his beginning, growth, and current experiences as an artist. In this interview, he shares with us his raw, genuine thoughts on his own, personal evolution as an artist.
“To paraphrase Paul Newman, “I wasn’t driven to art by any inner compulsion. I was running away from the sporting goods business.” The first impulse wasn’t “I want to do art”, it was “I want to honor my own curiosity and not work for anybody else.” After that, I fell in love with the technical challenge of painting and drawing and from there it only took 20 years and a possibly unhealthy amount of stubbornness to get to wherever the hell I am now.
I get more patient as I get older, and more cognizant of the fact that failure is a really important part of the process. I cringe when I realize how many pieces I made worse five years ago by rushing them or trying to his my shortcomings, and I am sure in another five years I’ll feel that way about what I am doing now. So it goes.
Process. Ideas and Images are starting points, but they are also dead ends if they are all that a picture contains. It’s only pushing past that and struggling with the technical parts of drawing and the emotional and phenomenological parts of seeing that allows surprises to emerge from the work. And ultimately that is always what I am trying to get out of a painting or a drawing: a surprise.”
“I’m broadly interested in Nature and Landscape, but mostly as a sort of Rorschach Test that tricks us into revealing things about ourselves and the systems we are a part of. More specifically, I’m interested in positioning site contingency, physicality, and a sense of place and history as a counterbalance to the hyper-mobility and fungibility of contemporary image culture, particularly digital images and the internet. Although the language of my hand made images is “digital” (i.e modular, logical, combinatoric) I’m most interested in what happens when that system of making is slowed down and embraces the “limitations” of becoming a cumbersome physical object that exists in a specific (and physical) space, time, and context rather than “flying free” on the internet.
I’m working on a body of work that takes the silhouettes of John James Audubon’s “Birds of North America” and Remixes / Reimagines them in contemporary context and environments. It’s a work in progress, sort of a love letter to printmaking and remix culture but also a meditation on the complicated and tragic legacy of the19th century and on contemporary environmental change.”
To viewers of his art, as well as anyone interested in gaining deeper insight to how the themes and concepts of our natural world were formed, Zachary recommends Andrea Wulf’s “The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World”. The artist can also be connected with through his website, http://www.drawsoftly.com or his instagram page @drawsoftly
Special thanks to Michael for his insight and for taking the time to share with us! To all friends of the gallery – make sure to come see Zachary’s works, as well as those of twelve other artists’, while our current group exhibition (Coded) is still on view!
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