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 Michael McConnell  (1944 - )

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: social issues, figure, genre

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Ad Code: 4
Michael McConnell
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted December 2004 by Charles Bradshaw, is excerpted from an interview with the artist.

"One of Us"
Michael McConnell
By Rudy Kikel
Published: Thursday, June 28, 2001

Birthday: ``Halloween. October 31. I'm a Halloween baby.

Current residence: ``Mass. Ave., across from Symphony Hall, the gateway to the South End. In the Twin Towers."

Ethnic roots: ``Irish and French Canadian, and I just found out I have some Micmac Native American in me too--my great grandmother was a Micmac Indian from Nova Scotia."

Occupation: ``I'm one of those crazy people who actually try to make a living at my art, partially because so many of the people I went to school with don't paint anymore."

Points of origin: ``I was born in Winthrop, Mass., and we lived in East Boston until I was five. Then we moved to Chelsea."

``Growing up, I began to have problems in my teens with alcohol and drugs, and came out as a gay man at about 17 or 18. Before that, I really struggled with whether I was gay or not. In those days It was really difficult to be open, to be gay.

In 1984 I began art school at the Museum of Fine Arts School, and got a diploma in 1989. Then in '89-'90 I did fifth year at art school for a certificate--basically in painting.

``In the fifth year we do a show in competition with the other fifth-year students,

``Ego aside, I should have won but I didn't--which keeps me humble.

``I think my work merited more attention than it got, but if I had gotten more notice, I might not have stayed connected to the issues that were important and are important to me. As my fifth year project I did 10 pieces of work about AIDS and my losses--our losses, I should say.

``I've continued from 1984 on to add to the body of work dealing with AIDS activism and social commentary. Through the years I've done arts shows that were in support of ACT-UP and other organizations that were pro-AIDS activism. I was connected for six or seven years to World AIDS Day and did shows at the ICA and the Cyclorama, and I continue to try to do shows that keep the issue of AIDS and its continuing assault before our eyes.

``About six or seven years ago, I got involved in a co-op --myself and several other artists--in Cambridge called the Noonan Gallery, named after David Noonan, who was supportive of the arts activism we were doing then and died of AIDS.

``The gallery failed after about three years; then, a few of the core people--Yosh Sanbonmatsu and Idalia Stanley (Yosh in particular)--wanted to start a social, political artist group and he was responsible for finding space at the Community Church of Boston (565 Boylston Street, in Copley Square), which has been very supportive over the last four or five years.

``Aside from the social, political artist group, The Gallery of Social and Political Art (GSPA) at the Community Church of Boston (565 Boylston Street) was supportive of a 15-year retrospective of my work from 1984 on (`One Man's Art: Aesthetics and Conscience') dealing with both AIDS issues and portraits and other types of art work I do: abstract florals, portraiture (my favorite, actually--I really love portraiture), and nudes, which have become very unpopular it seems. When they start draping the statue of Michelangelo's David--as they did a month or so ago in Dade County, Florida--you know we're in trouble.

``Over the years I've had various shows at the Boston Living center and the Stat-Script Pharmacy in the Living Center.

``I'm going to put a show together in the next four to six months on the subject of clowns, a series of paintings dedicated to my uncle, Thomas McLaughlin, who died of cancer in February.

``I continue to do work dealing with the AIDS crisis and to honor the people that we've known who have died of it. I've known 135 people to date, many of whom were sober from drugs and alcohol and who did make a difference, working for sobriety and AIDS education. I keep scrolls of the names of those 135 people and add to them as people continue to die, which I exhibit at shows dealing with AIDS. I try to do AIDS Awareness all year 'round, not just on World AIDS Day, not to demean that event in any way."

Would you call your work Expressionist? ``Yes. If I had to call my work anything it would be Impressionist-Expressionist. Some people call it blasphemous."

Are there artists you've been strongly influenced by? ``Oh, yeah. Basically Van Gogh and Lautrec, also Modigliani, and Alice Neel. My work has been compared to that of James Ensor and Marc Chagall.

``In addition to artists I've been influenced by, there was a special therapist/ friend named Jan L. who encouraged me to paint and actually gave me money to get arts supplies while my life was falling apart, and got me on the road to art school eventually."

I dream, in ten years, of ``actually making a living at art."

Don't you make one now? ``Like most artists, whatever money I make from sales goes back into buying supplies. The prices of art supplies have skyrocketed in the last few years."

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