Mike was interviewed this summer by the Arthritis National Research Foundation about his arthritis and his sculpting along with more photos of his sculptures. Check it out by clicking: HERE, the article is called “Art Through Arthritis”.
Interview With Mike
Do you usually know exactly what you want to create before you start?
Yes, definitely. Everything single time I know exactly what I wanna make. Because when I get my ideas I guess it’s never when I’m sculpting, I’ve tried that and ended up hating them when you force one, just for the sake of making one. I get my ideas when I’m in that moment that I’m trying to sculpt or when I see someone else who I think is in that moment. (playing Bob Dylan)
This sculpture looks to me like someone who’s close to giving up. Is it?
Yeah, yeah absolutely. At that point I was ready to give up because I made that right when the real heavy sort of stuff started hitting me–before that the bouts that came from this all came and went, I wasn’t damaged from it. When I made this one, it was the very first serious one I made– before that I was experimenting around with the clay because it was good for my hands because of the arthritis, that’s what I was told. Somebody got me a block of clay because they couldn’t find what they were looking for. It was sitting in a bag forever and the first time I picked it up I decided “I guess” and I made that one and that was the moment I decided I wanted to sculpt, to keep doing it. What a chance, it really was that’s why I always figure I just owe being able to even sculpt to the whole experience and I made this one, it just so happens that’s where I was at that point; one of my best descriptions for that–i really had been hurting in a way I hadn’t before or not yet, that was like the beginning of it all and I was pretty devastated I suppose, I knew that things were going to be different from here on out. I knew I had to have my damn hips replaced, ya know when you’re a healthy active young guy and then you have to get titanium hips put in it’s kind of a big deal. I know countless amounts of people out there with worse problems out there than me, I’m not whining I’m just trying to explain it in the best way I can. It was a big, deep blow. I never thought I’d have to have my hips replaced or anything until I was an old man. I was quite an active person when I was first making my way and had my own place and working and then it stopped, I didn’t think about sculpting, it kind of came about as I started. I don’t wanna sound (he laughs) dramatic or like I’m whining, I hate that whether I’m talking or sculpting. but yea, like anything maybe I try to explain too much. So that’s where I was at as far as that goes–I was at a real turning point ,when literally everything started to really change AND I KNEW IT WAS CHANGING and there was nothing I could do about it. For where I was and who I was at that point it’s just about as scary as it could get, I never thought about it before, it was easy because it came and it went (the arthritis). This was right before i had to have my first hip done, the first surgery i ever had to have (2002 or 2003). I was at the point there like ‘holy man, I have to have my HIP replaced” at the point where I probably would’ve choked about that, like an old man. I had to do it, so then it became very real. This sculpture symbolizes when it came a reality.
In this one, it wasn’t just me having to have a surgery—EVERYTHING changed from that point on. I ‘m a different person and I’m not ashamed to say that I kind of like where I’m at right now, it’s just the rest of the shit I’m trying to catch up with.
So is it more-so not about giving up but about facing a scary future?
Yes absolutely, it’s kind of , as lame as it sounds, the calm before the storm. I’m not trying to talk this sculpture up, this is how I felt when I was kind of preparing myself. I had my head down and felt kind of beaten at that point but you could look at it and it could be a good thing–taking that deep breath before you step into a fight sort of thing.
What went through your head while creating this sculpture?
When I was making it I guess all the things I said before but I wasn’t really thinking about it I just made it, it was going wherever it took me but once I stopped and sat back and looked at it I knew exactly what i was trying to say, and that’s when I sat back and really realized –I’ve said exactly where I’m at and what I’m feeling and I was amazed that I did it. I never realized you could say something so much with sculpting, it kind of blew my mind a little bit, so that’s when I started doing it. I just went with it, I wasn’t thinking about where I’ was goin with it I really wasn’t. Just moving. Just came out. Now I think about them as I’m doing them.
So this sculpture is like the beginning of you realizing the extent of your disease, so are your sculptures like a progression through your life with RA?
Yeah that question is right on the head, all the sculptures I make are for sure without a doubt a progression. I make them as they come, that’s all there is to it. Iwouldn’t wanna really do it any other way. It’s hard to explain, it is when I switched frames of mind I suppose. I still have enough ideas that I’ve jotted down over the years but now they come on , these ideas I get, come with the times. At least I feel like it. I feel like i’ve gotten better at–well its become almost like a habit now to think of a sculpture idea when i ‘m in a bad sort of time it becomes natural. after the first time i was looking at things to make and now i automatically , when i’m at those bad points, my mind just works like that-i’m just trying to make it thru the night, week , month whatever, but i i can’t help visions of scupllptures popping in my head and that helps…keeps my mind from going too negative. I love it. As much as I hate it. In my own world that alone is enough for me, it’s kind of a fair trade–the sculpting for the arthritis, even though that might sound stupid, it is, it really is. I love doing it that much, and it’s a fair damn trade.
So you seem to, as far as art goes, look at RA positively. Can you explain that?
You really come a long way in as far as a person, you grow up in ways you’d never ever think you could. To put it simply you GROW UP. Fast. You think about everything you did before and I would think anybody that goes through a significant sort of change like that would agree.
Not to sound too preachy,not what I’m trying to do at all, but when I really sit and think about it, as ridiculous as it may sound, I AM GLAD WHERE I AM RIGHT NOW, as far as the things that count to me–you know like sculpting, which is huge, I love it. There’s nothing else I can do that would measure up to it as far as myself. It’d be great if there was so but there isn’t so I have to be kind of glad that I am where I am. Does that make sense? I always ask myself that, because lets face it, I’m weird (laughing) but i ask myself that a lot–would I trade what I’ve gotten for being like I’m was before this? healthy, strong, fast–all that, the whole thing without having to worry about certain things. I just asked myself this and I’m serious about this I’m curious, and the best I can come up with is NO, I wouldn’t and it sounds stupid even to me. Like why wouldn’t you? But i wouldn’t. I like too much certain little things that maybe haven’t gotten me too far at this point but I think its’ the way I’m supposed to be. it just makes you think. It’s pretty cool. I couldn’t imagine things differently right now, everything (other than physically) everything at this moment in my life isn’t at the greatest place but I should be able to go further with what I know now, I hope.
One more thing….when you were asking about …how I wouldn’t change the way things are, I was just thinking just the sitting down, scraping the dry clay off the table, and just look at the block of clay and try to picture what I’m getting ready to do in that block as best as I can and get my hands wet and tools out, the music playing–just how everything is so awesome right there. That alone is so worth is. It’s so cool I love it.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MIKE ABOUT THIS SCULPTURE:
What do you see when you look at this sculpture?
MIKE: I feel weird putting this into words, that’s why I sculpt –so I don’t have to say words. But, for other people’s sake, I guess people are curious…I’ll say I’m trying to be as honest with myself as I can, as I’m looking at it right now. My description may not sound as interesting as I hope it might, but it was actually something that literally happened, which is where most of the sculptures/ideas come from–moments that have happened in my life. I was kinda in bad shape at the time and I was literally on the floor on Christmas Eve and I couldn’t get up …and it happens from intense moments I guess, it’s hard to say exactly. As bad as intense as a moment can get for me-I couldn’t get up and I was fighting back, you know…breaking. I was fighting back at THAT moment ( I remember these moments crystal clear, I CAN”T forget them), I was fighting back, breaking down. It was just a long, long, long night, and it was one of those nights that seem like they never end; or calling out to J or whoever was there, and nobody heard me, so it was when I kinda figured I was screwed and had to just suck it up somehow and figure out what exactly where I was gonna go from this point, being stuck on the floor. I was pissed off. I was hurting more than my words could say, I guess. (more…)
THIS IS AN ESSAY ABOUT MIKE, MY BEST FRIEND –FROM AMOS
“MATTERS OF TIME”
He is standing at the end of the dock with a cigarette hanging from his dry lips. When the sun rises soon, it will warm his bare feet on the planks of warped wood–just inches above the soft water. His spirit belongs to older generations–an ancient part about him that sent him away from cities and busy people, never trying to chase or capture time. Maybe it was because of the rheumatoid arthritis; (more…)
This is my poem I wrote for Mike, my best friends. It’s one of many things I’ve written on him and he’s letting me share it with you. This one’s simply called “Mike” (you can read the essay I wrote on him up at the top of the blog, click on “About Mike”. Love ya Mike.
He gets so tired and never shows it
you’d think that after twenty years
of inflammation, surgery, hip
knees, shoulder replacements
that he’d age as well
but that handsome face
has a fire down in his gut–
that old soul that dreams of
the sea and articulates (more…)