Mychaelyn Michalec is a painter living and working in Dayton, Ohio. She received a MLIS from the University of Southern Mississippi, a BA in Art History and a BFA with distinction from The Ohio State University. Her work has been featured in solo exhibitions at Divisible, Dutoit Gallery, and SkyLab. Notable group shows include Leith Gallery (Scotland), Fitton Center for the Creative Arts, and the Cox Fine Arts Center. Her work has been featured at Saatchi Gallery’s The Other Art Fair at Mana Contemporary, Chicago and the Brooklyn Expo Center in New York. Michalec is a member of one of the first cooperative galleries in Dayton, Dutoit Gallery. Most recently she completed an artist residency at the Sam and Adele Golden Foundation.
After taking over a decade off from making work, Mychaelyn has made great progress in the last five years immersing herself both within her practice and her field. She acknowledges that this is in part because of the tremendous support she has received from her family—which is also coincidentally her reference point for subject matter. That subject being the simultaneous disconnect and connection found within domestic, shared, or family spaces.
Five-Dots: How long have you been in this studio?
Mychaelyn Michalec: About 5 years. We've lived in this house slightly longer, and we've been in Dayton for ten years.
F-D: When you moved in here, did you have an idea for how you wanted to lay it out or did it develop organically?
MM: Over time I've taken over more and more of this space because initially it was just, you know, a basement. It was storage for our junk. It’s still isn’t the sprawling space that I’d hope for, but it works out just fine. My dream is to have a two-story garage and have all my stuff there. But that's a long ways in the making.
F-D: Has the location of the studio (i.e the neighborhood, city, building etc) influenced your work in any way?
MM: I think it does make it convenient for someone like me who has a family and is trying to be here for my kids as much as I can. I do try to be here when they get home from school and that sort of thing. There's a lot of disruption, but the good thing is that I can always walk away and come back to the work whenever. For as much distraction as there can be working at home, it also has its advantages as it forces you to look at the work a lot more. You’re forced to live with it. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages.
F-D: Can you describe a typical day for yourself, inside the studio and out?
MM: I usually get up when my kids get up and get ready for school. I, then, usually come down here to my studio space and do something to warm-up; whether it's stretching canvas or even doing a load of laundry while I think about what I want to do down here. I do a lot of drawing. A large part of my process in making my work is stalking my family with my iPhone. I take photos, print them out, and make drawings from the photos.
It's different every day. Sometimes it’s an “all computer day,” which I really hate. But it's necessary to update social media, websites, and all of the backend stuff. So some days I'm just doing that. I'm probably done at three o'clock because that's when [my kids] are coming home. That isn’t to say that if I'm really engrossed in something, I won’t be able to stay and work. My kids are pretty self-sufficient at this point. But I do try to be there, I do want to see them, after all. Sometimes I'm down here on Saturday, but I try to make this like any 9-5 or 8-3 job.
F-D: How does your family feel about being such a prominent part of your work?
MM: My children don't know any other way because I've been doing it for so long. I'm sensitive to the fact that we all pick up our phone thousands of times a day, and we’d probably never know when our friend is taking photos of us. I try to be discreet. I'm interested in the dynamic of simultaneous connection and disconnection in everyday interaction. [My portraiture] is not so specific that people think, “Oh, is that you or your children?" It could be anybody— it’s pretty generalized. People tend to say, "Oh, I recognize that situation: she's in bed and he's looking at his phone, etc. . ." Even though it's very specific as my family is the reference. . . it's not. I think its relatable to a lot of people.
F-D: How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?
MM: Domestic life is what has been interesting to me the most in these last few years. Specifically the family dynamic, as well as how social media portrays relationships versus my perception of relationships. For as much as social media is supposedly about connection, it causes just as much disconnection—that dynamic of distraction in everyday life is something that I'm interested in. I always go back to the definition of distraction, which is something like, "inadvertently or mistakenly connecting to more things at once." That's the nature of interpersonal relationships: to be distracted.
Domestic life has interested me most because that's the thing that’s affected me. That’s why I stopped making art and why I started and what I tell in my story. It’s what has been most consistent.
F-D: What mediums do you work with?
MM: Primarily acrylic. It was after this residency with The Golden Foundation where I switched to actual acrylic paint. Before I was reusing reclaimed house paint, the leftovers from home projects that I had collected primarily from stay at home moms; which I still find to be conceptually interesting. Unfortunately, it forms difficulties in its limitations with color and preservation. I also found that everything had the same value. . . Every paint had a ton of white in it. . .
F-D: Can you tell us about your process and how it has evolved?
MM: Drawing has always been an important part of the process for me. Even when I had just returned to painting; my process involved a lot of drawing and projection. That part has stayed true in the last 5 years, but my materials have changed, and the line has evolved into being more important. Having exposure at different people for critique can really effect your work if you let it. And the great feedback I’ve received within residencies over the past few years has really helped me.
F-D: Do you work with narratives, plot, or any generally progressing ideas?
MM: The obvious narrative is family life and connection/disconnection. I don't know how that narrative will eventually evolve for me because my kids are getting older and I don't think I'll be stalking them forever. They were in the work [before], but it's more about our relationship with each other now whereas previously it was just little samplings of them with objects around the house. Now it's more of a narrative between paintings.
F-D: Do you consider your work to be autobiographical at all; does personal history work its way into your making?
MM: Yes I do, but do I want to make it so autobiographical that it isn't relevant to anybody else? I don't think so. Everybody has experiences with family life or relationships in some form—I think that’s where people find meaning.
F-D: What influences outside the visual arts inspire and impact your approach to making work?
MM: Family life itself, obviously, but also social media. There's a lot of portrayal of the saccharine family life and I think it's represented on social media in that way. What I'm interested in most is the balance of that portrayal, displaying the mundane with the sweet.
There's been a lot of [acknowledgment] of the evolving role of women as mothers and makers recently. It’s a subject that wasn't given a lot of credence, but is now being looked at again as important conversation in our society. Trying to create a dialogue in my work is important for me. It feels to me like we are in a moment were we are taking a closer look at mothers who work in the arts. Sometimes it's difficult to admit that you're both [a stay at home mom and an artist] because there has been so much of a stigma around it—a notion that if you’re a stay at home mom and an artist, you’re perceived as a hobbyist. There appears to be more recognition of the need to lend credence to the work of mother-makers. I always admire women who haven't given up their creative practice or their commitment to being a parent as well. I wish I could have done that, but I was really critical of myself. I admire other women who are able to take on both of those things. There is a lot of emotional burden in both of those processes, raising kids and creating stuff.
F-D: What does having a physical space to make art in mean for your process, and how do you make your space work for you?
MM: I feel like my whole house is my space. I take over different areas of it, and it's great to have so much flexible space. It would be nice sometime to have the separation, to be out of the home, but there are so many advantages. Not to mention, it's free.
F-D: Do you see your work as relating to any current movement or direction in visual art or culture? Which other artists might your work be in conversation with?
MM: There's a lot of conversation around technology and disconnection. Disconnection is a big part of the reason I think there is more tension between people. Nobody can talk to each other directly, and the ability to fire stuff off at will via the Internet, I think, causes problems for kids. They seem to develop relationships with each other through they only way they communicate—social media. They're striving to make connection but they do it through this, sort of weird, manner. I feel like I may fit into that sort of observation.
In terms of artists, I find Francis Bacon’s late work to have a voyeuristic approach to the figure that I relate to. And the way that he addressed space, and rooms with the figure in it, those are things of interest to me. I look a lot at this painter out of Ireland named Brian Harte. He does a lot of domestic spaces and he addresses the physical space of home and personal space.
F-D: When asked; what do you tell people you do for a living?
MM: I always say artist because I've wasted too much of my time not identifying with who I wanted to be. I'm proud to say that I'm an artist. I feel comfortable with the fact that I've made the choice to go for it and take a chance in life and just go for it.
F-D: What risks have you taken in your work, or for your work?
MM: I think quitting my job was the biggest risk. It was part-time but I had gotten promoted. I just decided that it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I was at a point where I didn't want to say no to the paycheck; but I had the support of my family to return to painting full-time, and so I went for it. That was a pretty big financial risk.
F-D: Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?
MM: My work will be published in the upcoming volume 8 of Friend of the Artist.
F-D: Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and when?
MM: I’ll have work in the exhibition for the residency I just completed with the Golden Foundation: Made In Paint, Golden Foundation Resident Artists of 2018. The exhibition will run April 6, 2019 through July 2019 at the SAAG in New Berlin, New York.