Michael Callas doesn’t live a Bohemian lifestyle. He is not the archetypal Romantic artist in the studio, maniacally laboring away and working in erratic ways to keep normal out at all costs. His methodology is premeditated (industrious as his artists friends tend to note), operating within an orderly studio that leaves no material out of line. Whereas some artists excel in sporadicity, Callas thrives in structure, ignited by his engineering and carpentry background. Rather than centering his craft around the finished product, he utilizes the active nature of the creation process as his muse.
In the primordial stages of his career, Callas recalls being so focused on completing the task at hand instead of enjoying each step of creation. He thought adherence to structure made him less of an artist, unable to fit the public eye’s perception of an artist. He quickly resented that outlook on his artistry and shifted his mindset towards a more appreciative view of the creation process: calculated, savoring the act of culmination and stressing executive function.
Callas’ relationship to education catalyzed his view of the creative process through an executive function lens: ritualistic and rigid with confined parameters. Growing up with a learning disability, Callas struggled with maintaining focus while reading and completing tasks, the severity of which drove his mom to earn her Ph.D in Special Education to decipher what would make her son tick. Reflecting on this adversity years later, his philosophy is that one’s practice should be conducted under the paradigm of repetition, which helps him complete goals. Contrasting his current self against who he was 15 years ago, the efficiency he operates with now renders him wholly different from that previous persona, evolving from an upcoming artist to a well-established savant.
The way Michael Callas operates is deeply rooted in the concept of planned communities. Born and raised in Orange County, he was fascinated with them, always living in these premeditated templates of suburbia. Their repetitive nature subconsciously had an effect on his artistry, often producing the same silhouette of a painting with an altered color scheme.
Compartmentalization is what most aptly describes him. Confined shapes, no gradation or bleeding between colors, a contrarian to traditionalist oil paintings. Architecture is a vehicle of expression he closely identifies with as evidenced in his interior-centric collection featuring Winter Living Room II and Kitchen I.
Because Callas came into the realm of fine art in a self-proclaimed ignorant way, bursting in the door rather than carefully stepping through it, influence generally evaded his stylistic evolution; despite this circumnavigation of a typical artist’s path, he appreciates the ethos of the Renaissance, where the artist is simultaneously the scientist, creator and engineer. This philosophy is apparent with artists he admires like Michelangelo, Bronzino, Botticelli. In his own work, he draws parallels to Warhol and Lichtenstein, pop art contemporaries who take a curatorial approach to their subject matter as well as David Hockney with his attention to color and composition.
Since his pivotal Case Study series, Callas has continued to grow into his painting style, exhibiting a more refined technicality and fluency. New technology took his ideation process from traditional paper and pen to digital, from an opaque projector with a magnifying glass to a 4k projector alongside an iPad Pro, which increased the specificity of color choice, level of detail on shapes and layer separation.
“It took a really long time to make the work truly represent who I was, attempting to minimize the influence of who I wanted to be seen as. The artistic process is genuinely who I am. I know that the audience is extremely intelligent and I want them to see me honestly through my work.”
He acknowledges there is a dialogue, however indirect, between the artist and the audience, and to act like an artist is above that, in a vacuum with no real-world impact, is disingenuous and not why people become an artist.
Michael Callas wants to be remembered like Walt Disney, a virtuoso known for the complexity of their craft and whose work blossoms into multiple fields outside of their promoted practice. He’s always striving to improve, become more complex and execute ideas more cleanly, essentially hiding the human hand and leaving the audience with the firm belief that this work was made by machine.Close