BEFORE THE SMARTPHONE and the cloud, there were these things called “family albums”, also called “memory albums”. The photographs you took with a cheap instamatic were developed at the local drug store, and the photos you didn’t find too awkward to look at were pasted onto the pages of a family album, destined to fade over time. .
Looking at Houston artist Michael Bise’s graphite drawings – meticulous, intricately detailed portraits of his ancestors, living and gone, as well as Bise himself – is a lot like looking at your own family scrapbook, where each image tells a story, to be is poignant, oblique or frightening, or all three adjectives at the same time. Life after deathan exhibition of unpublished works by Bise, is presented at the Moody Gallery From March 26 to May 7. The word probably refers to the fundamentalist religious upbringing of the artist. It is a recurring subject in his work, as is an unflinching examination of illness and death. (Bise was born with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy and received a heart transplant in 2012.)
But that of Bise Mother reading to her son is all about life force. Watch the beams emanating from the mother’s head, her sweet smile and the look of wonder (or is it fear?) on her son’s face and bespectacled eyes. Even the furniture and patterns in the mother’s dress seem to vibrate with energy. Although it is a portrait of Bise as a child with her mother, the image is archetypal, one that artists throughout history have portrayed with varying degrees of sentimentality. In each drawing of Life after deathBise’s hatching, stippling, and shading are beautiful to look at, but will trigger something deep within the viewer, like how you might feel upon discovering an old, faded photo of a family member you don’t remember quite or that you wish you could forget.
Life after death is Bise’s ninth solo exhibition with Moody Gallery, which, since its founding in 1975 by Betty Moody, has sought out and supported the work of local artists. An open day for Life after death takes place on Saturday March 26 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. with a Bise artist talk scheduled for 3 p.m.
“Mother Reading to Her Son”
“Father protecting his daughter”
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