The meaning of a still life is traditionally communicated via standardized symbolic elements. These can be learned in an art history class, to be sure, but many can be intuited simply by looking, thinking and feeling. Mike Sullivan draws and paints tender-hearted and poignant still life pictures, images whose significance is complicated by knowing that he has been locked up for over 30 years, during which time he has earned school degrees and helped draft House Bill 2541, which provides non-partisan voter education as part of the IDOC exit process. A basket of fresh-picked apples, the leaves still green, so neatly sketched in color pencil; a vase of cut flowers, in full bloom, smoothly painted in oils; two happy, hugging grandchildren, fastidiously etched in pencil—Sullivan can touch these familiar subjects, share them, know them through the artwork’s picture plane, but not directly with his own hands. And hands are vital: to everyone but especially an artist, a sentiment Sullivan unsparingly depicts in pointillist style, inking a pair of palms, deeply scarred, their wounds coming together to form the peace symbol. As wounds, with enough time, care and resources, can do.
—Lori Waxman 2022-09-06 2:04 PM