Mike Spafford


signed print 24x12

Pulled by the artist

Michael Spafford's extensive body of paintings, woodcuts and prints depict archetypal power struggles as played out in Greek and Roman myths. A two-year fellowship to the American Academy in Rome in the 60s fueled his lifelong interest in mythology. Spafford's stylized figures of gods and giants, heroes and soldiers, monsters and maidens are portrayed in the midst of epic battles, formidable tasks and fearsome couplings. The artist translates themes of "dualism, metamorphosis, the confrontation of opposites, the struggle for achievement and the ultimate failure of a heroic effort" into "abstract visual gestures."

The stark, often silhouetted shapes are devoid of individual features or pictorial detail and are frequently shown in profile as on ancient Greek vases. An austere palette, dominated by black, white and red, likewise recalls classical Greek vase painting techniques. But Spafford's abstractions are more tightly framed. The action is compressed within a highly charged arena, giving it a savage immediacy. One can almost hear the clash of swords, the groans of the fallen. Many of the paintings and prints are episodic—presenting ongoing scenes and multiple perspectives of the ritualized stories. Other compositions capture a sequence of moments within a single picture plane. Born in 1935, Spafford is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington School of Art, Seattle, where he taught for more than 30 years.