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Truth, Justice, and the American Wayne

Michael Wayne
Michael Wayne
Gabriel Diego Delgado

Michael Wayne’s solo exhibition at AnArte Gallery called, “The Truth Will Set You Free”, is more secretive personal story than overt art aesthetic. Filled with a variety of different sized art pieces, Wayne’s exhibition showcases not only his prolific work ethic (with all works in the exhibition finished in the last six months) but his devout and indirect homage to religious spirituality. The title is an obvious word-for-word quote from John 8:32 however, this biblical text has a more reticent quality. Wayne, a painter known to work in a series of processes and on nontraditional surfaces like silk, has always shied away from revealing his methods; until now.

Like a coach exposing his playbook, Wayne makes no qualms about discussing and enlightening viewers on his reverse techniques and “backwards” painting style.

An artist, who only recently has recovered from a major life-changing accident, struggles with Dyslexia and other physical and mental attributes. Wayne is quick to tell you what is on his mind, thinks differently than others. Wayne opens up by saying, “I do everything backward, from eating to laundry to mowing the lawn. My mind and brain see no reason why I should start at one point and work my way through something. Sometimes I start at the end and move forward to the beginning.” He intuitively recognizes this thought-process lends itself to the practice of making art. From painting flat on the ground outside at his residence in San Antonio, Wayne’s signature look comes from applying paint to the back of the painting and pushing the paint through the silk fabric to the front, and building layers, images and shapes as the medium is pressed with brute force from the rear posterior.

As the painting manifests on the front surface, Wayne then manipulates the visual cues he wants to accent as the finalizing touches to the artistic configuration. At first glance, the work is reminiscent of early Abstract Expressionists, with painterly references to Action Painting, full body movements and all-over compositions. But, second glances draw you into a world of small details, the deliberate lines painted into the fields of color that are more Hans Arp than de Kooning. Wayne’s demeanor drastically changes when his art is matched up to art historical timelines he says, “I knew I was not an angry Oil Painter”, a quick jab to the likes of Pollack, de Kooning, Kline, Rothko, and many other Ab Exp painters of the 1950’s and 60’s. However, when one reads the titles like, “Without God I am nothing, with him I am more than a conqueror”, people cannot help to make, [what Michael anticipates will be], a quick judgment on a very touchy societal quandary – Religion. In addition to the first time Wayne is discussing his processes and techniques, he is also opening up about his once art-world concealment of his “Christian” identity. Bring in the title of the exhibition.

Remarking that the artwork is all about “Jesus Christ, our savior”, Wayne knows this personal ethos can work against him, but he is confidently secure in his artistic ability and humble in his demeanor toward his unremitting faith. Wayne says, “I am a replicator, a duplicator, Jesus Christ and his father God is the Creator.” Can this attitude work in the realm of fine art and the elite society of art collectors and fine art enthusiasts? Subsequently, he does not care.

In critiquing Wayne’s work, you have to understand that every decision is artistically rectified, from the refurbished silk screens to the highly expensive specially fabricated aluminum stretchers, each detail is dually noted. Abstract shapes are really crosses, organic shapes – crucifixions, and inferred subliminal bird motifs; again another biblical connotation. Wayne has an eye for color and can manipulate a distinctive visual palate effectively, drawing your eye across the picture plane with effortless adjustment. Spikes and pops of upbeat color combinations enunciate the huge pockets of painterly micro-universes; something Wayne admires about his work. Ruining brushes on the first use by smashing them into the back of the painting, bristles warped out, making new artistic tools for this expressionistic shaman. He says, “ Why can’t the painting be about this small space right here”, pointing to a small section less than 2 square inches, but full of layers of color and paint-blended, rubbed and plunged through from the back.

Although there is a repetitive hue arrangement evident in several of his works, Wayne realizes he plays color favorites and tries to compensate for it with his visual playfulness. Huge organic shapes dominate the frontal viewing plane, as compositional elements that sometimes dwarf the small microcosms of color. In pieces like “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation-the old has gone, the new has come”, Wayne uses a yellow ochre color as a background filler, eloquently quadrating out the compositional rhythm of the painting. An overt and deliberate decision, Wayne uses this area as a pictorial reverence to the cross. Now, effectively working as an artistic element, this symbol is too historically important to go unnoticed. Planning on and playing out a convoluted and didactic duality, Wayne’s paintings struggle with their own identity. Part unselfish and humble, part high society art patronage, and part art history, Michael Wayne’s art ascends into a unique unclassifiable triptych identity.

Although he has yet to experience his art patrons appreciation of his religious art endeavors, Wayne says, “I am nobody, but through Christ and faith, he can make me a conqueror.”

© Gabriel Diego Delgado