An overview of Michael Newberry's art, including a few definitive works, time-lapse, and studies. 6 min 40 sec
I grew up on the beach in La Jolla, California. Every day starting as an 11-year-old I played tennis during the day and made art at night. Around this time I felt an overpowering sense of evil and spent a brain-wracking night trying to figure out if the source was within me or outside. Luckily, after all the pain of forcing the issue I concluded that I was a good person and the bad stuff was to be looked for elsewhere. Also, at this time, I discovered Rembrandt, whose paintings of light and depth of spirit introduced my childhood self to a universe of love and nobility.
It wasn't until I was a 19-year-old that I felt compelled to choose between tennis and art. I played as high as #3 on USC's NCAA National Championship team. The rewards were enormous, yet the glowing spark of art was a more powerful motivating force. I quit USC and moved to Holland, the land of Rembrandt, to paint. My parents had long given up on trying to direct me, saying that I was "the most stubborn child that was ever born." To make ends meet I played tennis during the summers for a Dutch pro club, beating several players in the World's top 100. The rest of the time, I studied figure drawing at the Free Academy Psychopolis, drawing nine hours a day, every day, for two years.
Long dead artists like Michelangelo and Monet inspired me. It was as if their works spoke to me, guiding me through thousands of painting problems. For instance Michelangelo's way of drawing the surfaces of the body by what they would feel like rather than look like. And Monet's way of evolving how we paint color and light reexamining what daylight looks like. My older sister, Janet, was also a big inspiration. She was a top 20 tennis player in the world, and when she turned 18 she joined Billie Jean King's group of professional women players. Her attitude was to "just do it." Perhaps the most powerful living influence was my USC art teacher, Edgar Ewing, an American Modernist. From him I learned how to manipulate color to create spatial depth, one of the keys to Rembrandt's genius. Another mentor was Ayn Rand, her fictional heroes showed me that it takes tremendous dedication to bring about a great vision. And her books answered my haunting questions about dysfunctional relationships I had as a kid.
To Hell with the Postmodern Art World
The world of tennis is so wholesome, clean, and noble - the best player wins, you shake hands, and you continue training to improve on your weaknesses. The art world was a different matter. I had already been exposed to 70's California art scene of postmodernists, simply a bunch of scummy creeps. (Check out world-renown postmodern artist Paul McCarthy's body fluids themed stuff.) I wondered why pathetic people like him were teaching university art and showing in museums. It was frightening.
Armed with talent, great mentors, love, and a lot of fortitude, I decided that the postmodern art world could just fuck off. I was going to pursue my own vision of what great art is about. I began an uninterrupted quest that has lasted over four decades of exploring incredible states of being, and exploring visual understanding of light and color. Though outside of the contemporary art world, I continued to exhibit worldwide in Los Angeles, New York, Rome, Athens, and Washington, D.C.
There were very few moments of doubt, but I recall one freezing, windy night in Holland. It was 2:30 a.m. Hail was beating against the window while I was struggling with a painting, Woman in Blue. I could have been playing tennis in the south of France, instead of being in a damp and cold studio saddled with difficult art problems! Then, a mark of color clicked and the painting felt delicious. Next thing I knew I painted for another 3 hours and forgot all about playing tennis in France.
I had studied philosophy and art history (classical and contemporary) in college, and I continued to read about aesthetics both for my own interest and to answer the big question: why postmodernism? It is so obviously bullshit, how on earth could lies that big dominate the contemporary art world? A central issue that Western art hinges on is what is the sublime in art. Most great artists like Michelangelo share the answer in their art, but not in words. The 19th century thinkers, specifically Kant, formulated a very disturbing view of the sublime in that it "does violence to the imagination," and that it cannot be connected to the senses.* If one wanted to weaponize art and terrorize human greatness, one couldn't do better than Kant's project.
It seems ridiculous, but the real irony is that intellectuals and artists haven't formulated a better version of the sublime. I never intended to take on any activist role in the arts, but I saw things in a better way, and that needed saying and showing. Recently I formulated my own definition of the sublime in art:
The Key to Our Evolution? The experience of the sublime is to be looked for in art. Art integrates senses, emotions, and thought. The sublime in art elevates our sensory experience, heightens and taps our emotional potential, and furthers our knowledge. The sublime in art can also give us a moral, a stance towards living. At its best, the sublime in art inspires awe in our human potential and gives us a path to evolve as a whole being and as a species.
Ultimately an artist shows, and I have been painting themes of love and bliss. Most recently, my venture into science fiction is fully realizing my vision of the sublime.
If you are interested in collecting my work I represent myself so don't hesitate to contact me at the email below.
* "Nothing, therefore, which can be an object of the senses, is, considered on this basis, to be called sublime." Kant's Critique of Judgement, translated by J.H. Bernard