Distinctive Culture of the Motorcycle Explored
Submitted on February 20, 2018
The Wilson Fine Art Gallery at Georgetown College presents Lennon Michalski’s Ghost Bike exhibit. It opens March 8 and continues through April 11, 2018. Gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m. weekdays. A reception with Michalski is scheduled for opening day from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Gallery, located in the Wilson Fine Art Building at the corner of East College and South Mulberry Streets.
Michalski’s two dimensional and digital works have exhibited in North Carolina, Kentucky, Colorado, Georgia, and Washington, D.C. Works have also been displayed in group exhibitions in Mexico, Columbia, and China.
The artist is on the Board of Directors for Creative Alliance for Art Education, a nonprofit that works to provide funding for art programs in the Lexington, Kentucky public schools. He also works with a number of other nonprofit art organizations in the area including the Lexington Art League, Lex Arts, and the Living Arts and Science Center.
Michalski is currently working on a mural in the North Lime area of Lexington. He has completed two other murals, one in Ethiopia and another for the Tate’s Creek Kroger store. In addition to painting and digital projects, he has recently self-published his first book, How Penguins Save Television. More information is available online at http://www.lennonmichalski.com/.
An alumnus of Eastern Kentucky University, he earned a master of fine arts degree in painting and digital media from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Over the past decade, he has worked as an independent artist and instructor of digital media, photography, and painting.
Of Ghost Bike, Michalski states, “As technology continues to advance, guiding the human condition through innovation and investigation, the relationship between man and machine becomes more evident. While this relationship can aid in the cultivation of efficiency, accuracy, and community, it can also expose the fragile nature of the human figure. This body of work “Ghost Bike” takes a specific look at Motorcycles, considering the uniqueness that describes the machine, the man that chooses to indulge in that machine, and the nature of their relationship.
The imagery in the series considers motorcycle accidents to represent their dangerous cultural association. I specifically chose the motorcycle, the imagery, and popular icons to reflect my personal engagement with this idea. My grandfather was killed on a motorcycle, and this has largely inspired these pieces in the hopes of bringing attention to the motorcycle to provide an understanding of their own distinctive culture. I used the image of a white motorcycle, and adapted the name ghost bike, to reference the social ritual of painting a bicycle white and placing it at the place where an individual lost their life riding as a sign of respect, acknowledgment, and reverence. In putting the motorcycle within this context associated with a bicycle, I hope to aid the audience in drawing distinct connections between the basic appeal of each of these machines. Even when these tragedies strike, society often places blame on the motorcyclist, for they have willingly put themselves in harm’s way. Motorcycles are largely considered unsafe and rebellious in the eyes of the public because of the sense of vulnerability and danger associated with motorcycles. In an effort to define the broad spectrum of this machine’s interaction with the human condition, I sought to understand why so many individuals crave to connect with it.
I realized that engagement with motorcycles cultivated an undeniable sense of community. Motorcyclists feel passionate about their investment in this machine, creating a strong bond between, not only the machine and its owner but everyone who rides. In order to incorporate this idea of community, I created works that also represent this aspect of motorcycle culture. I examine the documentation of a group of cyclists traveling cross-country to pay tribute to the fallen. Rather than viewing the death of the biker as a careless rebel, he is considered a fallen hero, who deserves the greatest of respect. Within the motorcycle community, there is boundless devotion, which allows for the machine to act as a tool in eliciting genuine human interaction.
A major part of painting for me is the relationship that I build through cultivation. I trust my process, looking to the unpredictable nature of the materials to offer guidance on concept and composition. The notion of “time” is felt in the stacking of numerous transparent layers applied to each piece. My paintings are not objects assembled by machines or other individuals; I develop a bond and communicate through the development of each work. This technique is based on a physical language; by pushing the paint with my hands, I am infusing my energy into the gestures. I learn something new from each piece, allowing my process to open doors I would have never thought to walk through.
Through the creation of digital work, paintings, and sculpture, I hope to bring attention to the motorcyclist so that the sense of community motorcycle culture creates can continue to thrive. The motorcycle acts as a metaphor to represent the motorcyclist himself, with the engine acting as the heart of the individual, and the community. While many have fallen victim to the unpredictability of this machine, it uniquely acts as a tool to cultivate relationships, activate commitment, and instill a sense of community.”
Samantha Simpson is Georgetown College Gallery Director and Curator of Collections. To learn more about this and other exhibits, contact her at 502-863-8399. Or email Samantha_Simpson@georgetowncollege.edu.