Abstract Artist Michael Slagle Returns to Roots in Lakeland

by | Dec 2018

Artist Michael Slagle stands behind a table with painting supplies.

Michael Slagle stands beside his work. Photo: Tate Carlson

Local abstract artist creates images of home.

Local artist Michael Slagle grew up in Lakeland, Minnesota. The son of an artist, Slagle began painting in junior high school. He’s experimented with other mediums such as sculpture and photography but says, “Painting resonated with me most. There is something more immediate. Things happen faster.”

Slagle would earn a bachelor of fine arts degree from the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul, Minn. in 2000 and go on to earn a masters of fine arts from Rutgers University in 2004. A book he read at the time by German visual artist Gerhard Richter titled The Daily Practice of Painting inspired him. “[Richter’s] paintings seemed very detached,” says Slagle. “There is something cool about them. They were process oriented and that resonated with me.”

In college, Slagle would begin making abstract paintings based on cassette tapes. He would take cassette tapes apart and study the magnetic particles shaped like tiny needles that coat the tape. Those particles were the inspiration behind his earlier work and would later translate into his intricate map paintings.

Slagle’s abstract map paintings culminated from a process wherein he would run a map through a paper shredder and then put the pieces back together and paint what he saw. The results are intriguing intersections of lines and color that you think you can decipher but likely cannot even if Slagle tells you what map the painting was based on. “Some will say, ‘I see. The blue is for water.’ But no. There may be no water involved,” says Slagle.

After living in New York for 11 years, Slagle returned to his roots in the St. Croix Valley where he feels more comfortable creating landscape style paintings. He’s inspired by the places he’s known all his life, fishing on the St. Croix River and spending lots of time at Afton State Park.

“When I moved back [to Lakeland] in November of 2013 during a hardcore winter, I remember waking up one morning and going outside with my kids and seeing shadows on the snow that were like a line drawing. I played around with that image which began the body of work I’ve been working on since,” Slagle says.

Local bridges are another inspiration for Slagle’s work. “The bridges are icons here,” he says, and local art lovers will surely be drawn to this body of work.

Slagle’s process involves a picture or a drawing that he plays around with in Photoshop or in his sketchbook before he puts brush to canvas. His 24-inch square landscapes take approximately 8–10 hours for him to complete. His more recent flower paintings are more detail oriented and can take up to 15–20 hours to finish. He’s been focused on the smaller sized works for his recent exhibitions but does also enjoy creating larger paintings that, “you can stand in front of and they fill your peripheral vision,” says Slagle. He also does commissioned work and once painted Mount Rushmore for a friend. Click here for information about any upcoming exhibitions or to purchase artwork.


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