R. Michael Wommack
ABOUT THE ARTIST
I received my BFA from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, after attending the first session of the Pennsylvania Governor's School of the Arts. In my early years, I was a muralist for many private and government clients, some of the murals measuring 80 feet wide. The subject matter ranged from the silly to the serious. In the eighties I was the colorist at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, working with artists such as Red Grooms on specially designed fabrics.
In 1984 I began assisting internationally known architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown on an assortment of special painting projects, including in the National Gallery of Art in London, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, the Philadelphia Museum of Art to name just a few.
My most recent exhibits include solo shows at the Redbud Gallery in Houston, at Rowan University in New Jersey, and the George School in Pennsylvania. I was also included in juried shows such as the "Night" show at the Strathmore Art Center in North Bethesda, MD, Works on Paper at the Tyler School of Art and "Art of the State" at the Pennsylvania State Museum.
Recent prizes include Best of Show at Art City Austin in Texas, Old Town Art Fair in Chicago, Brookside Art Annual in Kansas City and the Beth El Art Festival in St Petersburg, Florida. Also Awards of Excellence at the Des Moines Arts Festival, BAM Artsfair in Bellevue, Washington, Lakefront Festival of the Arts in Milwaukee and the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival in Florida. Best in Drawing awards were at the Bethesda Row Art Festival in Maryland, Kimball Arts Festival in Park City, Utah, Scottsdale Art Festival in Arizona and the Sausalito Art Festival in California.
ABOUT THE ART
This series of drawings, now in its 10th year, was inspired by a dream that stuck with me in a vivid wash of color. In my dream I was swimming in pools that were connected to each other, at night. I was in my childhood neighborhood, Levittown in Pennsylvania, an early example of the archetypal American suburban development built in the early 1950's. The houses were all dark, and the illuminated pools were casting an ethereal glow over the entire neighborhood. I was drifting from back yard to back yard without another soul in sight. I found this dream a little odd, since I am not a particularly good swimmer, but the vivid colors really stayed with me.
We moved to Juniper Hill in the early 60's when I was six years old. The houses were newly built. As far as the eye could see there was the same house, in one of three alternating colors, in a gently curving and undulating artificial landscape. The trees were mere sticks, and no one had put up fences. Surrounded by plowed fields, on which Levittown was built, the visual impact was compounded when approaching this community of 17,000 homes in a car. As a first grader having previously lived in a country house, this experience was profound. I remember much from this time. It may be that our early impressions are made more vivid by the simple fact we have had fewer of them. Our brains are uncrowded with decades of memories. I can remember the smell of mint as I was trying to catch a Praying Mantis in the garden next door when I was 7 years old, but I can't remember what I was doing at a specific time last week.
Because of this, I became interested in the idea of the subconscious and working from memory. I pulled my soft pastels out of storage, not having used them for years and started drawing from memory. The pastels turned out to be the perfect medium, the powdered pigment being so pure of color, and the softness of the pastel captured perfectly the feeling of the dream. I am also interested in the fact that most Americans have lived in a place like this at one time or another, and of the social ramifications of living in such a manner.
I don't care to deconstruct any of the dreams, but I am interested in tapping the imagery. I am not concerned with historical accuracy, but in the emotions caused by living in such a place at an early age. I am not interested in making a specific social statement. I like to keep aspects of the drawings ambiguous, to allow the viewer their own interpretation of what it means to live in the American suburbs.
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