MIKE EGAN TALKS TO TD // BACK CHAT
Mike Egan is a Pittsburgh artist who is influenced by funeral homes, death, blood, wolves and devils. Of course we had to speak with him to find out more! Heres an interview we did with him earlier this year..
It states on your website that you used to work as a funeral embalmer. How did you get into a career like that?
Well, the story goes that I went to college for fine arts, where I focused on printmaking. After school I didn't really know what to do with my degree and didn't have access to printmaking tools. I ended up moving back home and got a job working for the airlines as I was close to the Pittsburgh airport. After about six months of working there September 11th happened and I lost my job. So not really having a direction with my art and having an unstable job led me to look into the funeral industry. There is a mortuary school here in Pittsburgh and I was very interested in learning how to embalming and restorative art. I enjoyed the work but the hours are terrible. I was oncall most of the time to pick people up to embalm them which led to me staying home to learn painting.
Were you always an artist or did that develop after working there?
I've always loved art ever since I can remember. I'm a kid of the eighties so I grew up drawing skateboard graphics and album covers like the Beastie Boys "License to Ill" and Guns and Roses "Appetite for Destruction"
Your paintings heavily feature death and religion; Is it fair to say that they are a therapeutic creation to your work history with death? Or is it an influence?
I think that its a little of both. Working in funeral homes is definitely a big influence, I make reference to the human anatomy, churches, coffins and of course the running theme of death. But I feel like getting all of this out of my head and onto wood panels and paper is sometimes a huge relief. I think if I kept all of these thoughts in my head all of the time I'd go crazy.
Do you ever get any people that may protest against your work for religious reasons. If so, how do you handle it?
I've only had one person message me about my work for religious reasons. She said that she was concerned about all of the death that I paint and especially the devils. She felt that I needed to be saved by the Lord. If anybody has anything negative to say about my work I tend to let it go, everybody has an opinion and everyone has different beliefs. Did I like that she said that? No not at all, however responding with more negative words wouldn't have helped matters.
What else influences you and your style?
When I was in college my printmaking professors turned me onto the art of the German Expressionists and Jose Guadalupe Posada, they kind of got the ball rolling as far as my style. I like a lot of southern folk art like quilt patterns and hex signs. Really any old antiques or graphics, that's what I've been looking at lately, oh and Russian architecture.
The number 13 reoccurs throughout your work, what does this mean?
13 is a lucky number for me, so I tend to repeat it over and over again. However I sometimes use it as an unlucky number in paintings as people tend to associate it with Friday the 13th.
You've explored with transforming your designs into resin toys and flip books. Can we expect to see more of these?
I'm not too sure. I'd definitely like to do another vinyl figure. But I'd like to figure out how to do my own figures out of wood myself. With my work being very folk art influenced I think that carving wooden skeletons and devils would be pretty amazing if I can pull them off.
What do you have planned for the future? Any goals?
I've got a bunch of shows lined up for 2016, I'll just be in the studio painting nonstop this year. As far as goals I really just want to keep exploring different ways to tell my story and keep finding new people to collect my work.