By Elaine Ubiña
The emergence of spring brings with it nature’s beautiful colors. It is perfect timing with the launch of landscape artist, Mike Glier’s show, taking place at The Barn @Downing Yudain. “Mike Glier: An Open Season” is a collection of landscape field studies en plein air (works made outdoors in nature), plus large-scale studio paintings. The works are a colorful interpretation of nature through pencil and paint.
It was a delight to get acquainted with Mike on a Zoom call recently. It is always a joy to meet someone who cut their teeth in the New York art world. Mike grew up in Kentucky. In his spare time, he made “Pollock-like” collages in his basement. His father was a butcher and wanted his children to have the best educations they could attain. His brother attended Stanford, his sister went to Smith and Mike attended Williams College. During college, Mike’s brother died tragically which triggered Mike to change his path and pursue his goals to become an artist. Life is too short, and Mike knew this was the time to pivot for his passion.
Glier began his fine arts education at the Rhode Island School of Design where he met Jenny Holzer, who became his wife. They graduated and joined the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in New York City. Mike got his MA from Hunter College. In 1977, Jenny and Mike joined with a group of artists and called themselves “Collaborative Projects,” also known as Colab Inc. There were 40 active artist members – including Kiki Smith and the Ahearn Brothers. They worked together on programs for Cable TV and X magazine. Their political activism came forth in a Times Square Show and the Landlord Show, which took place in abandoned buildings and portrayed issues of rent.
After eight years of living in New York City, Glier and Holzer bought a farm in Hoosick, NY. Mike commuted to teach at The School of Visual Arts weekly between 1984 and 1988. He returned to Williams College as a visiting artist and has stayed on for 32 years as a professor of painting and drawing. There is a vibrant cultural scene in the vicinity that makes it a wonderful place for artists to live, between Williams College Museum of Art, Clark Art Institute, MASS MoCA, the Berkshire Art Museum and others. Williams College Museum is a teaching museum and very accessible and accommodating to the art department and students.
Mike explained the importance of studying art in a liberal arts education. “There is a sense of creative confidence that is needed to further one’s career.” A few of his students have gone on to become artists – Meleko Mokgosi and Becky Suss, among them. Many students follow the path of science, architecture, and business. “Art teaches you to trust your creativity. With art there is an unknown outcome. The creative process is great for problem solving.”
It’s all in the family – Jenny Holzer, who keeps her studio at their family farm, has become a world-renowned conceptual artist, who uses text. She is known for her “Truisms” – such as “Abuse of power comes as no surprise,” and “Protect me from what I want,” as well as, “You live the surprise results of old plans,” which can be found displayed through digital technology and advanced media in places from Times Square to her famous project at Blenheim Palace and most recently at Tate Modern, London, along with many private collections. Mike and Jenny’s daughter Lili Kobielski and her husband Maciek Kobielski are both well-respected photographers.
Glier paints what he knows – nature imagery. Mike’s process is full immersion in the living world. Before beginning a new piece, he sits peacefully in nature and creates through thoughtful contemplation. He closes his eyes, and uses all of his senses to feel his creation. His work is “rooted in tradition” with a salute to art history. His influences come from Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Charles Burchfield, among others. He has studied the history of landscape painting and that comes through in his work. “Field Notes are images of an artistic exploration and objects of study.” The pieces in the show incorporate color notations – swatches of color on paper with a palette knife, along with handwritten text, descriptions and notes with his observations and focus on life forms.
Global warming and love of our Earth are motivators for Glier. The author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants and Gathering Moss, Robin Kimmerer is an influence for Glier. She shares his respect for the alive, the study of botany and philosophy through Native American teachings, especially “the gift of nature.” Sierra Magazine astutely states, “Kimmerer makes the case that by observing and celebrating our reciprocal relationship with the natural world, one can gain greater ecological consciousness.” Mike’s artwork is the visual balance of Kimmerer’s text. He uses all of his senses to see, feel, hear and smell nature and interprets it through the most beautiful colors.
Mike Glier’s work has been shown worldwide.
Mike Glier’s garden