Michael Ensminger Studio

For over twenty-five years, my art making has taken me on a journey of creating and exhibiting. In that time, many peaks and valleys have led me to my current work, which exemplifies my personal journey while also acknowledging and segueing with universal journeys as well. This has been the engine and focus of my work.

One of the primary interests that has driven my practice over the years is appropriating, re-purposing, and re-imagining found book pages and book plates.  I’m attracted to a nexus that includes the materiality of the paper as well as the content of the book, which I interpret, interrogate, and render fluid.

Using a variety of materials, including gouache, watercolor, acrylic, charcoal, and graphite - I remake and re-imagine a wide range of books. This includes 19th century medical illustrations, coloring books, and currently, antique hymnals.

For many years, I responded to the book page/plate as an object alone. My interventions were defined by a certain formalism: the image, text, and/or margins and empty spaces. More recently, though, as in the work on hymnals, the page becomes a suspended, ancillary frame for an image rather than defining it formally. Gessoing the page means that I can retain the paper's original rich materiality, as well as the prime context of the book, but then leave myself free to invent narratives, signifiers, and tropes. These narratives reference landscape as a metaphor for journeys, in which light, mountains, forests, water, and skies represent a fragile sense of hope, journeys, loss, and redemption.

In my studio practice, I also make paintings and objects that frequently employ found materials. The inspiration is two-way. The paintings and objects inspire my book work; in turn, my book work shapes and influences my paintings and objects.

My work can both feel formal as well as an informal, very deliberate or evoke a sense of spontaneity, which reflects my ongoing interest in vernacular, raw, and “outsider” art as well as a broad range of art history, including 19th century landscape painting as well as twentieth century minimalism. Zen gardens, scholars’ rocks, and Hindu tantric drawings are also points of reference and inspiration that meld global spiritual manifestations with
my own secular upbringing and outlook.