Michael Long’s Exhibit: Face Value

Dante’s Bar, Frostburg, MD

written by Elise Olmstead

Michael and friends at the opening at Dante’s Bar, photo by Grin Gallery.

There is something about combining music and art that seems to intensify the qualities of both.  I’ve always loved traveling to venues and cafes where unique art was displayed as well as local music.  At Dante’s Bar in Frostburg, their love for music, art, food and spirits, is exuded through their bookings and friendly staff. Recently, a sculpture and installation artist from the Appalachian mountains, Michael Long, debuted his exhibit “Face Value” at Dante’s the night that Moon Hooch came in the town to play.  It was an explosive evening–the excitement and sounds poured out into the street and filling the night air.  Michael’s unique, visceral sculptures conveying the human figure, was appropriate for the “cave” music of Moon Hooch, and his exhibit is on display all of this month.

Moon Hooch, photo by Grin Gallery.


Where are you from? 

Being born in the 70’s from a travelling military family brought me to a stork-like landing at Andrew’s Air Force Base in Maryland. My father was an artist/engineer that seemingly thought the Appalachian Mountains was a familial spot to raise a family. In other words, he inherited land, built a house and we grew up on the memories of the lineage he came from.

Progress of “Spindleman” sculpture

What was your childhood like and how do you think it influenced the person that you have become?

I guess as a kid there was this “art stuff” I was experiencing that made me a little different than my two sisters and one brother that were doing their traditional curriculum stuff that I wanted nothing to do with.

My uncle was a great sketch artist, my grandmother worked in ceramics and I remember the great creative push from them to keep at it. I do the same creative pushing now…hence my various students and apprenticeships. It’s important to give back. I’ve learned it makes me accidentally better at what I do, not to mention all the great artists I’ve been so lucky to be part of their lives in our my journey. We’re all in this boat to help each other rock so to speak.

Were you always artistic?  When did you start creating?

Yes, like I said I think I was always artistic. I created early. My first professional commission was at age 17 which is now a corporate business logo. It’s funny to see but nothing but a shape shifter. When you’re young you just see opportunity to do art. Looking back I’m grateful but easily was taken advantage of.

Picture of Michael carving by Grin Gallery.

What was the first sculpture that you made?

Sculpture-wise I embarrassingly enough took an oak log and carved for months to completion. Something I would do in days now. It’s in my father’s basement if I remember. I’ve learned a lot about expression and materials since then.

What other mediums do you work with and what is your favorite medium?

I work in all available mediums including steel, wood, ceramics, painting and found objects. My work is in large permanent collections such as the Station Medical Installations, and museum exhibits throughout surrounding cities including “Spindleman” that made the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Exhibit at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in 2013.  As a favorite medium I chose multi-media… That doesn’t answer the question specifically but all art is unlimited by media in my eyes.

Cromagnon Skeleton made from plastic forks.

Did you ever go to school to study art?

No, I was accepted into many art schools but applying as an independent child I was never funded. I had to be creative and teach myself. This country should make education a little more accessible for the eager to learn and not have the debt they burden you with. Most artists pay for nothing. They never teach you how to create your own market.”

What inspires your work? Who are some artists that inspire you?

I’ve been lucky to be able to stick to my guns and be able to do my work and have it support itself for many years now. I’ve always loved the greats like Picasso, Pollock, etc. and especially my good artists friends that make it their lives. My more serious work is simply based on just exploring thoughts. Most of the more important work to me is based on some kind of concept. Something that makes me wonder why and why not…the rest in just simple expression. That’s what art is in my mind…Expression of an individual, or a person who speaks for others.


Tell me about some of your past shows or exhibits. What are some of your long term goals as an artist i.e. impact you would like to make?

It’s hard to focus on specifics when it comes to what and where my work has been the last 10-20 years but I do remember journaling my goals as an artist ten years ago. I wanted my work to be recognized. I felt that art was a language and the best life speakers in my life were from the great artists of the past. I’ve displayed in the same empty spaces as Andy Warhol…big deal. I guess for reasons I don’t understand. .not that that makes me good of course.

Some of Michael’s sculptures in window of Dante’s, photo by Drin Gallery.

Tell me a little bit about the theme of your show “Face Value” and why you chose that theme.

“Face Value” is a study of the sensory organs that have so coincidentally put on the front of our head. The work is about what we see, what we say, our expressions and why we so accept it as a universal language. There is a Facebook event page “Face Value” encouraging people to post their “selfies”/pics as they will be incorporated into the body of work a Dante’s. After Dante’s the body of work will be on display at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art. I really hope people will participate as it will be on display for the masses.
How did you become involved with Dante’s?  Why do you like this venue?

Dantes’s is first a music venue. I love music. Secondly, they incorporate art. I love Dante’s….. think I’ve said enough.

Gallery where you can view and purchase some of Michael’s works: http://www.localityart.com/Locality-Artists.html

Dante’s Bar: http://www.dantesbarfrostburg.com/