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In an elite class

Shelbyville artist selected
for Kentucky capitol exhibition

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

SHELBYVILLE, Ky. (March 2007) – For visual artist Michael Thomas McCardwell, art has always been “a way to deal with the things that interest you.” McCardwell is part of a group of select artists whose work temporarily adorns the Capitol Annex building in Frankfort, Ky. This elite group also included artist Emmy Houweling of New Castle, Ky.

Michael Thomas McCardwell

Photos by Helen E. McKinney

Michael Thomas McCardwell displays
a still life painting. His artwork hanging
in the Capitol is more like the pen and
ink drawing pictured below.

Michael Thomas McCardwell pen and ink drawing

McCardwell has taken his interests and transferred them onto paper, thus generating a response to his ideas through his pen on paper technique. Although he has worked in different mediums such as oil and watercolor, McCardwell chose pen on paper to capture the distorted look of reality in “A Pleasant Scene.”
In this drawing of an imagined scene, the artist used distortion to play with space and scale. The result is a collage of images a person could recognize, but ones that might not usually be put together.
Visitors to the Capitol can see McCardwell’s work hanging alongside 25 additional artists from 14 Kentucky counties. This visual art exhibit of 36 pieces entitled “Kentucky Visions at the Capitol” was unveiled Feb. 6 and will hang through the duration of the 2007 session of the General Assembly.
Mediums displayed include photography, oil, watercolor, pastel and acrylics on canvas. Artists who have artwork in the exhibit have previously been accepted into the Kentucky Arts Council’s Visual Arts at the Market Program or awarded the Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship.
“It is a chance to see a wide variety of artwork produced in Kentucky,” said Ed Lawrence, Public Information Officer for the Kentucky Arts Council. The artwork was displayed upon the invitation of the Senate Majority Leadership offices. This area of the Capitol is in the midst of a renovation process, with the Senate floor completed except for bare walls.
“It’s a good opportunity to key into the Kentucky Arts Council and the programs they have,” said Lawrence. The exhibit was devised at the request of Sen. Dan Kelly, Majority Floor Leader, who is lobbying to have the budget include funding for artwork.
The most unique aspect lies in where the artwork is displayed, said Lawrence. It hangs in the halls of the Senate and Senate Leadership offices.
But McCardwell, 57, is no stranger to having his artwork represented in a variety of places. He has pieces in private collections in the United States, Europe and Japan. His work has been juried into shows in California, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Always interested in art, McCardwell had no idea how it would factor into his career. He earned a B.F.A. from Murray State University, an M.A. from Morehead State University and a teaching certification from the University of Louisville.
He has taught art at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System campus in Shelbyville, Spalding University in Louisville, and at the former Shelbyville branch of Lindsey Wilson College. He was also a studio art and humanities teacher for 27 years at Henry County High School and taught basic skills such as reading, math and English at the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange to inmates who may not have had a lot of educational opportunities.
McCardwell, born in Shelbyville, has done freelance work for various companies in Louisville. He produced drawings for newspaper ads, which would be known today as clip art. He draws inspiration from looking at other people’s work, feedback and things he reads which suggest different questions he wants to pursue.
Some of McCardwell’s work is exhibited in Shelbyville at Shelby Artists on Main, a co-op gallery. His artwork there is more realistic-looking that the piece that hangs presently in the “Kentucky Visions” exhibit at the Capitol, said McCardwell.
When it comes to a sense of style or other artists that he admires, McCardwell is interested in the style of the Chicago imagists– Andre Malraux, Dante and Jim Nutt. He has received two National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships.
There are so many talented artists out there and so much competition that McCardwell has found it difficult at times to market his work as a visual artist. The goal of the Kentucky Arts Council is to try to change this through business and marketing training.
McCardwell said he is just thankful for the chance given him from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Senate to participate in this exhibit.
All of the artwork is for sale with prices ranging from $100 for photo prints to $16,000 for paintings. The total value of the artwork is $73,196.

• For more information on the exhibit, contact Ed Lawrence at (502) 564-3757, ext. 473. To view more of McCardwell’s artwork, visit: www.southernartistry.org.

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