Residency: May-June 2009
About the Artist:
Mike Calway-Fagen is an artist living and working in middle Tennessee. He uses a variety of different materials to make work that spans a broad range of issues. He is interested in slowing down, looking, listening and thinking.
I spent the better part of my adolescence and even my early adult years desperately trying to find a different way to navigate. I was never really quite sure where or what I was headed towards. Then one day I earned my Eagle Scout and I grew up a little. I’d spent years without shoes chasing snakes and feeding turtles in various tanks that sat about my turquoise and purple painted room. I’d fallen in love at the age of 14 and then went on to propose ten years later to the French woman of my dreams. She had stolen my heart underneath a waterfall in the rain some years earlier. It was between my professional bicycle racing career and the somewhat stumbling fall into art. We had shared our own fascination with fireflies and intercourse. One time I even got a tattoo while she watched.
After high school, Eileigh dropped Will and I off on the interstate and we left to test our friendship. The police picked us up and dragged us, after looking at our boot-knives, to the next county. I threw up off a porch and Will slept in a gazebo. In South Carolina we walked down the interstate and were met with the most kind man who showed us cigars and hospitality.
The irony of my parents disparate backgrounds, Jewish kid in Brooklyn in a project high rise and my Mom and her catholic family trailing my Granddad from place to place as an army brat, has had a lot of impact on me. I’ll always look for diversity and quirkiness.
I would hangout, arms draped over glass cases, staring at bicycle parts. Later I was told that I had been suspected of stealing and even later I raced my bicycle for money. I rode until my legs hurt and stairs were nearly impossible to climb. I went to school as an athlete and painted because I remembered it being easy in high school. Within two months I had dropped out and sunk into depression. I was in transition and my bike looked neither appealing or a feasible means to eek out a living. I got in to school again and this time was determined. I made a considerable amount of money each week as a fly fishing guide in the Smoky Mountains. Sometimes sneaking a flask of vodka into the woods and offering my better customers a chance to really enjoy themselves. I almost stepped on a rattlesnake a number of times; one of which was while hanging out with my best friend who would later commit suicide.
After moving back to Tennessee from New York, I discovered a deep desire to make art and to act creatively at all times possible.
I came to Sculpture Space having no preconceived notions of what I was to make. The program really lent itself to an open approach providing ample time and space to function creatively unfettered. The piece, Desertership, ended up being my favorite project realized while in residence. Starting with a steel armature I slowly built up a form using refuse materials found around Sculpture Space. After building up a significant sub layer over the armature the camel- shape began to materialize. I applied layer after layer of duct tape to articulate muscles and limbs. I added taxidermist’s eyes of blue and brown to give the piece a human like quirkiness. From the back of the animal protrudes a celeste colored propane tank that appears to be inflating an ominous black balloon. Standing at 65″ tall it has an extraordinary presence in its tan duct tape skin.