Michael C. Spafford — Statement

I consider myself primarily a formalist. In other words, I seek to attract the viewer by visual structure of my work rather than with my illustrative skills. Since 1961, I have worked and reworked multiple versions of Greco-Roman mythology dealing mostly with themes of conflict, conquest and origin. By selecting these "stories" I feel free to make paintings that look the way I want my paintings to look, that is to say assertive, graphic and confrontational.

I tend to work in a serial format, either selecting a subject which has multiple images, such as the "12 Labors of Hercules," or making between ten and twenty compositional variations of a theme, such as "Perseus and Medusa" or "Theseus and the Minotaur." Often, I use a triptych format to better display sequential action and a diptych format to heighten the sense of opposing elements.

I'll often repeat the same subject or theme after the passage of five or ten years. My first complete "Labors of Hercules" was a series of charcoal drawings done in 1966 and after thirty-three years and more than fifty variations, I am presently involved in making another version. Obviously, it is not the story which holds as much interest for me as the formal structure which can express it. I am driven by the idea that I can do it better if I do it again. Printmaking and drawing have always been ways for me to think formally and the cutting and printing of woodcuts has encouraged me to seek primary visual solutions rather than pictorial detail in my works.

—Michael C. Spafford

Additional information

Greg Kucera Gallery Press Release
Epic Works, April 5 - May 30, 2018

Open pdf of "Documents Northwest: The PONCHO Series"
Michael Spafford Seattle Art Museum January 9 - February 2, 1986

Smithsonian Archives of American Art:
Smithsonian Archives, Oral History Interview, Michael Spafford and Elizabeth Sandvig by Paul Karlstrom, 1992

HistoryLink.org Articles:
Spafford, Michael (b. 1935), and Elizabeth Sandvig (b. 1937) By Cassandra Tate (Essay 10684)
Washington House of Representatives votes to cover up controversial murals in House Chamber on March 7, 1982. By Alan Stein (Essay 10338)