Celebrating Love and Life in Its Most Natural Form with Black Spirituals’ ALXMCHL

If you really think about it, everything we see is a shape. Without a second thought, we go about our lives seeing, analyzing, and accepting shapes as they are in their natural form, taking their very existence for granted. Cubist artist, Alex Michael—better known as ALXMCHL—possesses an acute awareness of this and works to highlight and honor the love and life that lives in every shape we come across.

With compositions like his “MTHRNSON” series, ALXMCHL shows that the love and bond he had, and still has, with his late mother has never been taken for granted. From the Norfolk NEON Arts District to the Virginia Beach ViBe Creative District, the memory and energy of his mother’s love and life is honored in the most organic way he knows how—through shapes.

Get to know the CAN artist a little bit more in our conversation below.

What led you to becoming an artist?

Art had been a passion of mine since I could remember. I would draw and color alongside my mother as she would sketch out and decorate beautiful cakes for her clientele. There was a creative lane we shared love for. Her passing led me to where I am today as an artist.

What medium do you find yourself working with most? Is there a medium that you would like to incorporate more into your future works?

I find myself exploring with oils the most! In the studio, I mix my own medium from stand oil and turps. This comes in handy if I need a little extra flow for details or to loosen up some of the stiffer oils. If I’m building up a painting in layers in the studio, I will use a little glaze medium together with my solvent. I keep it messy for the earlier stages with dried, overused brushes and miscellaneous tools, coming back to flirt with details later on in the painting’s phases.

How does your creative process begin?

I sit in front of a blank canvas that I painted over years ago or a freshly purchased cloth from the day of and hold a conversation with my mother. Normally the conversation plays in my mind vivid memories that stir up a positive push. That emotion normally leads into the shape [the] painting takes minutes later.

“Who” or “What” is inspiring you the most these days?

The “Who” and “What” inspiring me these days is family–my nieces and nephews as of late, to be specific. I have a beautiful and smart niece steadily advancing and discovering herself and interests daily. It’s amazing. Then, arriving later this year is her brother and cousin. New life. New energy. New discovery. New space. New perspective. Growth has been inspiring.

Many of your pieces are continuations of what you have titled, “MTHRNSON” followed by a Roman numeral. Can you explain a little more on what those pieces mean to you?

The MTHRNSON series, followed by the Roman numeral, is a series that finishes this year. I began this series five years ago with the hopes of reaching 10 murals by the ten year anniversary of my mother’s passing date, which is September 2021. During this long mural series, I have had the privileges of travel and new memory created in celebration of our connection. A new light of Mother and son time I can continue to appreciate and polish in my career.

Do you have a favorite set from the installation?

My favorite set from Black Spirituals would have to be “The Funeral” and “The Ghost Bar.”

“The Funeral” holds an array of depth between passionate red artwork executed by the First Patron artists in residence at the CAN and the soulful expressions of emotional performance poured to the public by the Tunny Crew. The work ethic and mentality these individuals birth are unmatchable.

“The Ghost Bar” shares that social atmosphere that I am very familiar with and comfortable in. I do not get to play a role in this set, but if I wasn’t busy walking on stilts as the “gatekeeper” in “The Funeral” room, “The Ghost Bar” is where you could find me taking a sip.

I had fun putting this set together. The fabric wall is a wall of cool-toned textiles stapled together, a process I will introduce this summer through my most recent MTHRNSON works in a two-man show with Hampton Boyer.

What is the biggest thing you hope for viewers to take out of Black Spirituals?

I hope the viewers can recognize, appreciate, and celebrate liberation. Black Spirituals pulls a person into a new or augmented reality through art. It is easily one of the most powerful and beautiful experiences I have been a part of in my artist career. Experiences and energy are endless at the CAN!

Image courtesy of Nalan Smartt

Featured image courtesy of Alex Michael (ALXMCHL)

Black Spirituals tickets are still available for 2/20 and 2/27. Purchase your tickets here before they go for good!


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