13 Questions with Michael Updike, Mixed Media Artist

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Michael Updike is a sculptor who creates slate carvings and memorials in marble, slate and granite. “I originally started working on slate art as a way to practice my carving skills on a $2.00 piece of slate shingle rather than testing my learning curve on a $1,000 piece of slate cut to be a tombstone,” says Updike. “On the old slate, I enjoyed the contrast of the fresh stone carving against the patina. The history of the slate was evident in its wear. I picked up a couple pieces of slate shingles at a yard sale. After that I visited a rock salvage yard and in the back they had a palette of mostly black slate shingles. Mixed in were some green which give me greater contrast.”

1.) What do you love most about making your work?          

Seeing my ideas evolve as I work with the material.

2.) Tell us about your creative process. How do you decide what to make/do when you go into your studio?
I have literally tons of slate shingles and I flip through them as one might old LP records. I consider each one a color field painting with its own subtle nuances due to weathering. Certain shingles almost ask for a certain image to be carved into it.          

 3.) Who or what has had the most influence on your work?

Calder, Chagall and Modigliani even though my work has very few similarities.

4,) What sets your work apart from that of others in the same category? 

I’m more playful. Artists often consider rock carving an austere endeavor requiring a serious approach.

5.) Current Playlist - what do you listen to while making your work?

Retro Punk and New Wave. Roxy Music, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed.

6.) If you had to have a regular job what would it be or what is it?

I've been working on my own for 30 years and built my business from nothing, really. And art has always been a I almost have a real job of designing tabletop serve ware for the company Mariposa. It’s creative with its unique set of challenges.

7.) What are you binge-watching at the moment?

The Crown and Fargo  

8.) What’s your favorite travel destination?

A little island in the windward islands Bequia

9.) Who is a famous artists dead or alive that you’d like to meet? Why?   

None. Meeting the artist as a person would taint the art.

10.) What’s your philosophy on keeping craft alive?

I hope it stays alive for my lifetime at least. Just keep doing it - there is an audience out there.

11.) What’s your favorite beverage to enjoy when the show is over?

Scotch on the rocks with some olives on the side.

12.) What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you at a show or in your studio?

Husband and wife having an argument over whether or not to buy my carving of a dead mouse in a trap. He won the day, but called a week later to buy it for her birthday.

13.) What’s the biggest honor you’ve ever received related to your craft?

Grieving parents have asked me to carve their child’s gravestone.

Laura Burkett