Click on any image for a larger view.

I FIRST MET MICHAEL NOLAND nearly 15 years ago at an obscure little folk art auction in Columbus, OH where I had gone to review and and possibly bid on some stone sculptures by the artist Popeye Reed (1919 -1985). There were some questionable items at the preview, the most obvious being a 4” tall stone carving said to be carved by William Edmondson (1875 - 1951). Everything about the piece was just wrong, besides the fact that Edmondson did not make tchockies. The time for the auction of the item was at hand, and as the item was described, the auctioneer used his words carefully but obtuse enough in hopes of starting a fierce bidding competition.

That’s when a booming voice from just behind me interrupted the auctioneer with: "EXCUSE ME! Are YOU saying that in your PROFESSIONAL opinion as an auctioneer, that you are standing behind this object as a William Edmondson?? I mean, this object is no where close!” It was a beautiful moment. I think there might have been some applause as the auctioneer attempted to answer with more “uh’s” than the actor Jimmy Stewart in Frank Capra’s film You Can’t Take It With You. It’s not everyday you get an auctioneer tongue-tied. The item was passed on, to my memory.

Well, later I had to meet the man who was responsible for this auction-interuptus and I walked up and introduced myself. It only got better when I caught a glimpse of a tattoo on his arm and as he raised his sleeve, I saw a glorious tattoo of one of self-taught artist Martin Ramirez’ stags. We have been close friends ever since.

Mike’s work as a painter has made him one of the most watched Chicago artists in the last two decades. Mike’s work emerges from the Chicago Imagists tradition, yet he has a style that is recognized as uniquely his own.

The imagery in Mike’s work stems from his childhood in Oklahoma, where tornados, tall tales, horse trading, record-sized catfish, buffaloes and desert flowers were rich source material for his creative life. Besides being an accomplished artist, Mike Noland has one of the most original and passionate collections of folk, self-taught and outsider art in the United States. As an artist, curator, published writer and collector, Mike Noland is truly a multi-dimensional person. Did I say he was also a husband and father of three great children?

Mike’s work is represented by several galleries, including the Tory Folliard Gallery and the Philip Slein Gallery.