Michael Horswill -"An Alarming Lack of Supervision"


Horswill 0105 Moon Tide w

June 6, 2008 - July 5, 2008

Opening reception will be on Friday, June 6, 2008 from 5-8 in conjunction with the Downtown ArtWalk. Everyone is welcome.

This show is generously sponsored by LGD Design. We thank them for their generous support of the arts in our region.


I collect, combine, and unite the materials that pass through my life, trying to expose the meaning of the image floating in and out of my mind’s eye.

I work with the mixed media of the physical world, responding to trees and machines, imagery and text, history and humor, earth and architecture, texture and color, line and shape, and the constant feeling of time passing.  Assembling these materials of life into art creates a unified vision of my response to the mystery of the tangible world. 

Viewers encounter these ordinary fragments of life in my work—seeing their reflections in metal or branches, plaster or wires—their memories and imaginations inviting them to discover meaning. They glimpse landscapes and cityscapes, clouds and color, texture and shadow, cracks in pavement, sun through branches, fingers in sand, idea and image, thought and emotion, existence and memory.  Uniting the myriad materials of the world into art mirrors uniting a single work of art with a single viewer.  The physical world creates the illusion of separation, of disconnection, but art unites us in the present moment. 

Life is what we bring to it, and when looking at my work, viewers see both decomposition and persistent creative energy.  Within both views lies visual beauty—it's just a matter of how we experience the pulse of living.  Beauty exists as life begins, ends, transforms, and begins again. More and more my experience seems to be one of continued movement from one thing to the next. It is when I slow down and listen to the sound of space and my place in this world that I realize life is right now.

In conceptualizing my work, I embrace all of the blooms and screws, warts and wires. In the persistence of existence I find beauty, humor, and humility. 

We don't have the answers; we're just part of the mystery. 


my CREATIVE PROCESS and biography

My relief sculptures combine a wide range of materials.  These pieces are best described as "constructions" that juxtapose mechanical materials such as brass, copper, tin, steel, hardware, and wire with natural materials such as wood, fabric, rawhide, bamboo, vines, beeswax, and branches. 

I begin by drawing and designing, then usually building a wood framework that I layer with metal and more wood, adding texture, color, and sometimes light.  I paint with acrylic and stains and encaustic over a type of plaster that hardens into a cement-like, ceramic surface.  I varnish painted surfaces to protect them from fading, clear-coat the metals to preserve patinas, and oil the organic materials such as branches to enhance their elasticity.  I have designed these sculptures so that in the changing light from day to night, the metals glimmer and the colors shift from bright to calm. 

I have been influenced by studying architecture, Native-American artifacts, African and Oceanic art, and Asian Wabe-Sabe philosophy. I learn from the intense exchange of ideas in the process of teaching students at North Idaho College, as I engage my own creative thinking, knowledge of art history, and experience with art-making to help students grow as creative people.  I am a life-long learner, having attended art schools and universities in Montana, Japan, Seattle, and Idaho; having worked as an illustrator, painter, and sculptor; and having taught illustration, studio art, and art history.  While immersed in teaching and learning, I thrive on the process of making abstract and intricate artworks that I have never seen before.

I remember as a child how the intricate small things that made up a larger picture were somehow more important than the picture itself.  On the way from my hometown in Bozeman, Montana to my grandparents' farm in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, I watched with fascination as we drove through the Twin Cities' industrial landscape. To me, those smokestacks looked like giant exhaust pipes, and I was sure that the soot they spewed would kill me if I inhaled, yet I was fascinated by the complexity of structures built for reasons I did not understand.  Growing up in Montana, my family spent summers horseback riding, hiking, and camping, and I remember the time my sister and I found an old kayak in the forest beyond our campsite.  It seemed to be in perfect condition, so we took it, imagining great adventures on the lake.  We had not carried it more than a half a mile when we realized it was disintegrating, and what was once a water-worthy structure was now sawdust, dirt, rusted nails, and worn fabric.  At first we felt great disappointment, but after a while we picked through the debris and found that the kayak was home to all kinds of living creatures. Upon closer scrutiny, the structure was made almost solely of plants and bugs—we just had not noticed them before.  The composition of life made me hold my breath in wonder.

Other pursuits in my youth included building forts, painting models, and drawing, especially cartoons.  I tested my talents illustrating for my high school and college newspapers.  I studied drama and art early in college and traveled to Japan for a year-long exchange.  Upon my return to the U.S., I moved to Seattle, married my best friend, Laurie, and pursued a career in illustration.  I freelanced for companies and publications, and my artwork grew from simple drawings to watercolor and ink paintings.  My art was changing, so I returned to school and graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in fine art and a desire to pursue painting and sculpture that combine the materials of life.  Moving to Spokane and then to Coeur d’Alene, I continued to work as an illustrator, taught at North Idaho College, completed a Master of Fine Art through the University of Idaho, adopted three Pugs, and learned to sail on beautiful Lake Pend Oreille. 

From my early adventures to my latest artwork, I am constantly aware that humankind is surrounded by all kinds of life forms.  Some we see and enjoy, like pets and flowers and garden vegetables, and some we do not see or do not enjoy, like fungus and microscopic critters that eat our clothes.  But what is clear to me is that we are no different from any other life form on this planet.  We have tremendous capacity to create and destroy, yet ultimately we are caught up, just like a fungus, with the predicament of living right now.  My relationship with nature is at the center of what I do.  Direct connection with the majesty of nature is humbling, as I recognize that human beings are only a small part of a vast, beautiful mystery. 

                        -Michael Horswill



Michael Horswill


-University of Idaho.  Master of Fine Arts.  Moscow, ID, Dec. 2002

-University of Washington.  Bachelor of Arts, Interdisciplinary Arts.  Seattle, WA, Aug. 1995

-Shoreline College.  Associate of Arts, Fine Art.  Seattle, WA, June 1994

-School of Visual Concepts.  Seattle, WA, 1992-1993

-Kansai Gaidai University.  Osaka, Japan, Sept. 1982-1983

-Montana State University.  Bozeman, MT, Sept. 1981-1982, Fall 1983


Gallery Representation          

-The Art Spirit Gallery.  Coeur d'Alene, ID  83814.  Dec. 2002-Present


Solo Exhibitions         

-An Alarming Lack of Supervision.  The Art Spirit Gallery.  Coeur d’Alene, ID.  June 2008

-Persistent Predicaments.  The Art Spirit Gallery. Coeur d’Alene, ID.  Nov. 2006

-The Space Between.  The Art Spirit Gallery.  Coeur d’Alene, ID.  Oct. 2004

-Looking In Looking Out.  Washington State University.  Pullman, WA, Oct. 2003

-Organic Mechanical Mysteries. Prichard Gallery, University of Idaho MFA Exhibition, Moscow, ID, Oct. 2002


Group Exhibitions       

-North Idaho College.  Faculty Art Exhibitions. Coeur d'Alene, Jan. 2008, Feb. 2006, Jan. 2004, Mar. 2002, Apr. 2000

-The Art Spirit Gallery.  Annual Small Works Invitational.  Coeur d'Alene, ID, Dec. 2007, 2005, 2003, 2001

-The Art Spirit Gallery. New Works by Ten Artists.  Coeur d'Alene, ID, Apr. 2006

-Whitworth College.  Three McMillen Foundation Artists.  Spokane, WA, Mar. 2006

-The Art Spirit Gallery.  100th Anniversary Celebration: New Works by Nine Artists.  Coeur d'Alene, Apr. 2005

-Spokane Arts Commission. All-Media Juried Show.  Spokane, WA, Feb. 2003

-Idaho Arts Commission. Governor's Arts Awards Exhibition. Coeur d'Alene, ID, Aug. 2002

-Coeur d’Alene Art Association.  Art on the Green Juried Exhibition.  Coeur d’Alene, ID, Aug. 2002

-Art in the Making. Coeur d’Alene, ID  Feb. 2002

-Washington State University. Border Exchange. Pullman, WA, Sept. 2001

-Ridenbaugh Gallery. University of Idaho.  Moscow, ID, Mar. 2000 

-Jacob Lawrence Gallery. University of Washington Juried Undergraduate Exhibition.  Seattle, WA, May 1995

-School of Visual Concepts.  Illustration Invitational.  Seattle, WA, June 1993


College Art Professor, Tenured. North Idaho College.  August 1998-present

-Teach credit courses in fine art and design.  Emphasize integration of art history, group projects, research assignments, creative thinking exercises, written reflections, and active critiques.  Students display work publicly and have created artwork for nonprofit community agencies through service-learning. 

-Courses include Art History I and II, Survey of Art, Drawing I and II, Illustration I and III, Two and Three-Dimensional Design, Watercolor I and II, Sculpture I and II.


Community and Educational Art Projects and Conferences

-Hands of Humanity:  Art, Service-Learning, and Human Rights.  Documentary film on three- dimensional design classes working with children’s community art program, resulting in human rights sculpture, produced by Instructional Media Services, North Idaho College.  Shown on PBS: KSPS of Spokane, WA, and KUID of Boise,  June 2006

-Opera Plus.  Coeur d’Alene, ID .  May 2006

-The Chair Affair.  Spokane Art School.  Spokane, WA.  Mar. 2006

-Art on the Edge Summer Camp.  Visiting Artist.  July 2005

-Harding Family Center Sculpture Installation.  Interactive, playground sculpture by NIC sculpture class.  April 2005.

-No Moose Left Behind. Excel Foundation fundraiser for local schools.  Coeur d’Alene, ID. Summer 2005

-The Humanities and Human Rights. Presented at Community College Humanities Association. Boston, MA.  Nov. 2005

-College Art Association Conference.  Seattle, WA.  Feb. 2004

-Campus Compact Conference on Service-Learning.  Portland, OR.  Mar. 2003


Freelance Illustrator.  Seattle and Spokane, WA, and Coeur d’Alene, ID, 1987-present.


Selected Clients Include:

-Editorial covers and inside articles: Alaskan Airlines Magazine, Canoe & Kayak Magazine, Central Seattle Cooperative Newsletter, Employee Assistance Program Newsletter, The Northwest Inlander, Louis Martini Winery Newsletter, Northwest Outdoors Magazine, Stocks and Commodities Magazine, Strother Publications, Washington Law and Politics, Wildlife Conservation Magazine of the Bronx Zoo.

-Advertising illustrations and logos for brochures, newspapers, magazines, trade journals, and videos: Alpha-Tech Computers, Bloodhound Travel, Caterpillar Tractor, Everett Community Transit, G.T. Rapp & Company, McKeague Design, Renton Civic Theater, Seattle Catholic Archdiocese, Softcraft Software, Spokane Transit Authority, Spokane Windermere Realty.

-Special Publications: Clear Mountain Communications (syndicated cartoon), Egghead Software (video illustrations), Everett Community Transit (children's coloring book, posters, flyers, folders, and web site illustrations), Spokane Air Pollution Control (children's coloring book), Spokane Transit Authority (posters for Bike to Work Week).