Michael Ensminger Studio

My art is process based and inspired by materials and places. In my work, I reference Eastern and Western traditions of landscape painting, craft traditions, American roots music as well as more contemporary art history. Using modest materials, I unfold narratives of time and experience.

My drawings make up the largest portion of my practice. Frequently, and for many years, I take apart books and use the pages and book plates to make serial works. For example, in my most recent work, I have dismantled and re-imagined a book of sheet music that I bought in an antique market. The sheet music was printed, handwritten, collaged , and served as a beautifully rich ground on which to work. I embroidered the sheet music with very simple “running stitches” by using embroidery floss. Other more recent books I have worked with include vintage Lutheran hymnals and a 19th century German prayer book.

For me, the books as well as the colors and titles of my work employ symbolism, including titles that narrate experiences. The aforementioned embroidered piece I described earlier is titled “Big Sky." The embroidery floss is white and many shades of blue. With the text and colors, I evoke an experience of vastness, of something larger than myself, a place of meditation and myths much like the American prairie of my youth. Other recent series, many titled “Drift," are inspired by visits to the Andes and again, reference places, experiences, and meditations.

My studio practice also includes making paintings, objects, and singular drawings. These pieces are also part of my ongoing narrative of materials, colors, and processes. In these works, I frequently use found mixed media and repeat methods, materials, and colors. From weaving seagrass and orange crates to using old shoes and birds nests, I am most interested in an exploration of found objects, historic materials, and re-visited processes.

For me, the materials, processes, colors, and titles are all interrelated, intrinsic parts of my work. Over time, this personal language of images and words, including Oh! Mountains, Drift, Big Sky, Muddy Waters, Dead Winter, and Early Morning, become tactile embodiments of personal encounters with landscapes and states of mind, moments in time and fleeting visions.