“My greatest achievement has been to gain professional confidence in myself as an artist,” states painter Michael Slagle ’00. No small task in New York City where he moved in 2004 after receiving his MFA from Rutgers University. He has learned that connections can make the difference between visibility and anonymity. Another achievement is the fact that he has maintained a studio in New York’s economically pressurized environment since his arrival.
Like many artists, Slagle’s life is a balancing act between making money and making art. He dutifully holds down a day job as an account executive selling advertising for The Village Newspaper in Manhattan. By night and on weekends he works in his studio in Long Island City, Queens. “It can be hard to find the energy at night to get to the studio and get something done,” he says. “But the hunger to exhibit my work motivates me to get to the studio two to four days a week.” He also makes it a practice to get to gallery and museum exhibitions once a week.
Another motivating force for Slagle to make the studio-trek is to witness the continuous evolution of his abstract, oil on canvas paintings that are based on maps. Executed in distinctive one-off hues with titles like Roebling Street Fire Escapes or Airports of the Midwest, Slagle’s work is bold, complex, and graphic. “I am captivated by the formality of maps and the trust they inspire. When I am humming along it is fascinating to see how one painting leads to the next,” he explains. “By constantly building upon and honing the way I approach maps as a subject I have developed a distinct progression to derive abstractions from concrete realities. The thrill of discovering each sequence in this succession is a powerful incentive.”
Successes to date? Like most artists, Slagle’s goal is to ultimately make a living by selling his paintings, and his work has garnered some gallery attention since 2006. Several group shows were followed by his first solo exhibition in 2007 at The Madron Gallery in Chicago. More recently, his work was included in a group show at New York’s Andre Zarre Gallery in November 2010, a Chelsea venue where he hopes to secure a solo show this spring. His work was included in Katherine Harmon’s book, The Map as Art, published in 2009.
Slagle’s future is flexible. “I do love living out here,” he says, “but I look forward to returning to Minnesota to teach at a college or university.” In addition to showing his work in recent CVA alumni exhibitions, he hosts CVA students in his studio during their summer Art in New York City class trip. “I tell them about my work and give them a glimpse of life in New York,” he says. “I was pushed and fostered by some excellent CVA faculty, and much of my work ethic and success I can contribute to them. I look forward to the students.”