NAME: Michael Conroy
Sum up your creative process in one word/phrase, and explain why.
– In approaching my work I don’t just look inside my mind, I look everywhere, to see or try to see everything. When I create, I repurpose those shards of pain, pleasure, prologue and perseverance into a visual outburst that forces itself to be seen in its most raw form.
Were you always an artist, even as a child? What was your path to becoming an artist?
Creative spirit yes, but artist, I’d have to say no. I did not grow up exposed to creativity. For a long time I didn’t realize my ambitions or instincts were expressing creativity at all. I’d write what I later realized were poems but never connected that to art. That, coupled with a blue collar upbringing and no exposure to art schools, simply didn’t give art a name much less have a place for me in it. It wasn’t until a lot of life changes, experiences and a continuous feeling of something needing to get out from inside me, that I started to explore more creative things and art. First and mainly by consumption through museums, galleries or documentaries, I started to realize my thought patterns were similar to how artists spoke about life or themselves. I felt commonality, and it actually made sense of a lot of things for me. Shortly after that I decided to go buy a canvas and paint. It gave me a visceral reaction. It may sound strange, but it felt as if I had found something. It continued from there and I’ve been essentially chasing that feeling since that day.
What is your medium of choice and what drew you to this particular medium?
Painting is definitely my medium, and recently I’ve been exploring a bit of sculpture and the idea of a more physical way to convey content. To me, it’s all a version of a painting. I think what drew me most to painting is that it has zero boundaries. You can say anything in any form you feel is the best conveyance of whatever the subject matter may be- whether that be through color, imagery, or gesture. Because of its abstract or suggestive nature, painting is unassuming and has no concrete opinions, leaving itself open to someone else’s decision to engage or determine. It speaks without language. I believe that painting is one of the purest forms of connecting people. I suppose my desire to feel connected to others and let others know that they are seen is probably why painting feels like my strongest voice.
Is there any particular experience, person, place or thing that inspires you to create? Tell us about that.
Definitely one of the most difficult questions to answer because it is such an evolving thing. I will try to be as specific as I can. For me, inspiration is always derived from some sort of human experience and I tend to lean a lot on social events both current and historical, oftentimes finding how eerily repetitive they can be. That can range from racial issues to gender equality to addiction or to gun laws. I also take my own experiences or struggles in life and I paint them as unvarnished as possible without romanticizing them.
Trying to understand other people’s experiences is also a place I spend a lot of time. I try to connect to others’ experiences to deepen empathy and gratitude for life, while also feeling empowered by the similar sets of emotions we all can have from very different life circumstances. I feel most connected to the underrepresented and I always feel a sense of advocacy for that. In truth, it is probably more of a form of self-advocacy for me.
What is it like showing your work to people and what do you hope people take away from it?
Showing work is always completely humbling and I am grateful to even have the opportunity to do that. When people are drawn to a particular work or are moved by something I created, it is really such a unique and amazing feeling. The purchase of a painting is not the only barometer. A lot of times just a conversation is the value. To me, that’s what it’s about, the connection- the fact that the work resonated and was able to produce a feeling or reflection. Above all, that is what I hope to be the take away for people- that someone feels open to the experience of art and how that can be multiplied into so many things.
What did winning the Award for Excellence mean to you?
Winning that award, without a doubt, felt validating. Making art can’t solely be defined by validation or it would be crushing. The pursuit itself will always have a lot of discouragement, it’s just the nature of it. That said, being recognized and singled out as having art worthy of an award is absolutely appreciated and needed. I like that Conception Arts uses jurors within the local art world to choose the winners. That adds a layer of meaning to the award. It gave me a little more affirmation, a little more confidence, in continuing to pursue art as my sole mission and do away with any backup plans.
What advice do you have for other artists who may be looking to get their work exhibited?
Ignore the “no’s” and refusals. Focus on the acceptances and understand that it is a process. Some people will like the work and some won’t, but those are just opinions. Believe in yourself not the approval.
In the most humble and respectful way… give no fucks.