Artist of the Week: Michael Bussell

Michael Bussell is an artist living and working in Baltimore, MD. He is currently pursuing his BFA in photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art and is a committee member of the Wilgus Gallery.

If you had to explain your work to a stranger, what would you say? I hate answering this question—I would probably try to start explaining, then just show them my work.

How did your interest in art begin? I was encouraged to do art growing up—I didn’t start thinking of myself as an artist until I started educating myself about contemporary artists when I was in high school. I would be in the photo lab printing and next door there was an art history class—I would go work in there and overhear the lectures.
What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? Most of what I do centers around photography or some kind of photographic process, but it’s interdisciplinary: photographs, digital images, drawings, animations, sound, virtual environments. I try to think more in terms of ideas than separating things by medium.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? The internet, light, how little we know about everything.

What artists are you interested in right now? John Houck, Cy Twombly, Leah Cooper, Lucas Blalock, Aram BarthollTabor Robak—too many to name. I use delicious.com to manage my bookmarks which are almost completely artists websites now.

How has your work developed within the past year? My thinking about art and why I make it has changed. I think my work is more true to myself now, less self conscious. Being in the kind of environment where everyone is making work all the time is inspiring, it creates a kind of self-imposed pressure to keep up and be motivated.

What are your thoughts about the art scene in Baltimore? I’m still new here, but the feeling I get is a very inclusive, collaborative and humble art community. Most of the work I see outside of MICA is in alternative spaces, and it’s just nice that they can be so successful in this environment. The caliber of work is very high and I think the relaxed attitude has something to do with it.

If you hadn’t become an artist, what do you think you’d be doing? I have no idea. I’d be very, very bored.

Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of you work? Before I had a community of artists to rely on for critiques, I would take to the internet. I learned my lesson one day when my work garnered me a response which at the time upset me and now makes me laugh uncontrollably. I’ll share it with the internet again, in full: “I am very active in a few different art circles where I live, and I am seriously not saying this to shit in your sundae. I pay attention to the work I see, and especially to the work I see selling. Photography, in general, is this huge sinkhole of mediocrity but once in a great while you run into things that really are on a different level from everyone else. Go to some museums, go to some galleries, and think about the amount of time and training that goes into some of the things you see on display there—especially the photos. Just think exclusively about time, and how much you put into it, versus the others.” Flawed logic and subjective opinions aside—pretty funny, right?