Press Release: Susan Sales “Big Game” and Michele Mikesell “Guardians”


Michele Mikesell Guardians

Susan Sales Big Game

October 22 – November 20, 2010

Santa Fe, NM- Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art presents: Michele Mikesell Guardians and Susan Sales Big Game from October 22 – November 20, 2010. The opening reception for both exhibitions is Friday, October 22, from 5 – 7pm.

Michele Mikesell

In her first solo show at Chiaroscuro, Dallas-based painter Michele Mikesell continues her exploration of anthropomorphic subjects in the new series Guardians. Painted on birch, Mikesell’s work depicts stylized animal forms that recall the anthropomorphic petroglyph imagery which first inspired her interest in painting. Present within these forms is the suggestion of the human: sometimes seen in full face, their animal shells appearing like garments or costumes out of mythological and fairytale dramas, and other times only their eyes can be seen, hinting at the human presence within. Mikesell’s paintings are expressionist visions of a world peopled with strange, often child-like characters that are at once humorous and disturbing.

Mikesell draws her inspiration from Pop Surrealism, German Expressionism, and children’s art. Named for the role animal figures take in religious traditions the world over, Guardians draws a blurred line between the animal kingdom and the kingdom of the human. Mikesell’s work suggests a supernatural dimension to both the human and the animal while also suggesting a raw animal instinct lies just beneath the surface of polite society.

Mikesell’s process of adding, scraping, and sanding the paint results in smooth polished surfaces that contrast with the use of color and brushwork, producing an effect in the medium itself that is mirrored in her subject matter. Born in Huntsville, Alabama Mikesell received her MFA in painting from the University of Oklahoma. Over the past seven years, she has worked with and studied under Susan Sales in Dallas. She has had numerous solo exhibitions in Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

Susan Sales

Big Game, Susan Sales’ second solo exhibition at Chiaroscuro is a selection of multi-paneled painting, each with patterned surface images suggesting animal prints or hides. Sales, also based in Dallas, is known for her abstract expressionist works ranging from gestural action to color-field paintings. Her work attains a rich luster due to a labor intensive process of scraping and sanding, revealing touches of paint beneath layers adding depth and density to her work.

Embracing a range of styles and mediums in her work over the past 20 years, the animal-like patterns in Big Game are a strong departure from the saturated color fields for which she is known. Sales describes;

“Ranging from highly stylish to utterly trashy, the hides of beautiful, exotic creatures, or their facsimile, have been evident and enduring throughout history.  Incorporated into everything from pure function, to fantasy, to absolute luxury, the trophy status of many of these treasures is a subject unto itself.”

Through the use of these highly patterned multi-paneled canvases, Sales captures the movement and vitality of a wild animal through abstraction.

Originally from Connecticut, Sales spent 12 years as an artist in Santa Fe before settling in Dallas in 2000. In Santa Fe she had numerous solo exhibitions at Waxlander Gallery and later, LewAllen Contemporary, in addition to exhibiting nationally. A self-taught artist, Sales work has appeared on the covers of several magazines including House Beautiful, DECOR, 2008 Neiman Marcus Christmas Book and is included in private and corporate collections throughout the United States.


Michele Mikesell Guardians

Susan Sales Big Game

October 22 – November 20, 2010

Opening reception, Friday, October 22, from 5 – 7pm

High resolution photographs available; call Becky James at 505-992-0711 or email