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Interview - Mike McGovern

We were so pleased to show Mike McGovern's work as part of one of the first shows we put together, Amalgam. Read about Mike's work and the cool project he's been working on with his wife, Roxanne McGovern.


mixed media print - Mike McGovern & Roxanne McGovern

Tell us a little about the projects or residencies you’ve been involved in lately.

Recently I have been teaching a pretty heavy load. This last term I was teaching 6 days a week at 3 different schools. So teaching has been my main focus and priority. But I have also been working at Children’s Healing Art Project, a nonprofit that works in Portland area children hospitals doing special art projects with kids in medical crisis and their families. (www.chap.name). My wife Roxanne and I have been working for CHAP for the past few years helping to set up a functional print shop. We are working towards making sellable products of the children’s art to raise money to help support the non-profit. We have been making t-shirts, calendars, and wrapping paper. But we are going to be expanding to produce limited edition prints of the children’s art. We are also going to be setting up teen printmaking workshops and art classes. She is the executive director of the organization and does so much for that organization in order to keep it up and running.

In the spring of 2011, I was a visiting artist at CSU Fresno and the College of the Sequoias. As a visiting artist, I was able to work with the printmaking students at both the schools to produce editions of my work. While I was there I also gave lectures about my studio practices. I was asked back in the Spring of 2012 with my wife and collaborator, Roxanne. Roxanne and I have a collaborative art team called OWL CAT INK. We create work about our personal lives and family histories and how they intersect. Roxanne’s work deals a lot with her Armenian heritage and how her grandfather survived the Armenian Genocide. Every year in April during the anniversary of the genocide CSU Fresno has an Armenian awareness week. Fresno has a huge Armenian population. So for the awareness week we were visiting artists and we had an exhibition of our work that featured a lot of imagery by Roxanne about her grandfather’s survival and legacy. It was a great experience for both of us we got to print with students and make lots of editions and give lectures on our work.

mixed media print - Mike McGovern & Roxanne McGovernHow have these impacted your studio practice?

Teaching always influences my work, it makes me understand my own work and what is important to me, and what I feel is important to teach and pass on to other artists. When I am teaching I am always being exposed to new ideas from students and children through their inquisitive nature and their raw unfiltered interactions with art. I get to see people grow and find themselves, something that artists are continually doing throughout their lives.

Who are some of your favorite artists right now and why?

Well there is always the usual artists I like to look at on a regular basis like Jean- Michel Basquiat and Robert Rauschenberg. These two artists have a real raw power with their work that I feel comes from an everyday American vernacular. I feel their work is really blue collar and accessible.

But some contemporary artists that are getting me really juiced these days are people like Peter Doig, David Choe, and William Kentridge.

Doig, who is a painter and printmaker, has just beautiful and rich vibrant paintings and prints with real interesting narratives, textures and colors. To me his work is very mythical and mysterious.

mixed media print - Mike McGovern & Roxanne McGovernDavid Choe is just so raw and unapologetic. His work comes from underground pop culture and the streets and into the galleries and museums. And I just love his use of materials, such as spray paint, ink, blood, found objects. Has a very punk rock and hip hop feel to his work.

I love William Kentridge animated drawing with very strong political and social narratives. He is a great story teller and works in so many different mediums.

But as I get older I find myself looking more to the past. I am hugely influenced by the German Expressionists. I love how as a group collective they accepted and pushed printmaking forward helping solidify it as legitimate art form. I really enjoy artists like Emil Nolde, Ernst Kirchner, Vassily Kandinsky and Kathe Kollwitz who were all associated with that movement.

Oh and I also absolutely love Alberto Giacametti and the way he transformed and distorted the human form in his paintings, drawings and sculptures.

How has your work changed since you showed at greymatter?

I am doing more collaboration with other artists. I feel that printmaking instills a real sense of community and collaboration through its democratic nature. It is the people’s art; it’s by the people for the people. So I am focusing more on working on my collaborative team, OWL CAT INK, with my wife Roxanne and pushing what we are doing. The work that we create is really influenced by the kids we work with at CHAP and the art that they create. If looser, more free, spontaneous.

I am also been working with another collaborative team with my friends, Ed King, Jason Leisge, and Cheyenne Sawyer. For the past year doing both collaborative etchings, monotypes, paintings and drawings.

mixed media print - Mike McGovern & Roxanne McGovernAre there any shows or events coming up that you’d like to make us aware of?

I have some smaller shows around Portland Oregon at some pretty awesome coffee shops that have huge wall spaces and great lighting. And I just got a solo show at the Water Avenue Commerce Center here in Portland in November.