Promoting and supporting the arts and culture of the region.

Art For All Is Not Abstract

Mike Taber

Local artist Mike Taber wants everyone to be able to appreciate art. 

“One of the main reasons that I have my pieces here and the way that I have priced them is… because I want the general public to have a chance to own some original art,” explained Mike during a recent interview at the heArt & Soul of the Yadkin Valley gallery where several of his pieces are available.

Mike is an abstract artist who has worked with many mediums since he began painting in the 1970’s when he returned from his service in the Army.  “I was just looking to get a quick degree. An associate of arts seemed to be the answer and then I met Professor Long.” 

Walter A. Long of upper New York was an expert on early Indian art who also served on the board of several museums and was highly esteemed in the artistic community according to Mike who contributes Long with encouraging his art.

“One day when I was working on one of my pieces he said to me, ‘Mike, there are painters and there are artists. One day you will be an artist.’  That just kind of changed my whole perspective of art.”

It was this conversation that gave Mike faith in himself as an artist.  “Realizing that I did have the talent and that somebody of such stature believed that I did (made the difference),” stated Mike, however that didn’t mean he planned a career as an artist.

“The problem back in the 60s and 70s was there was no way you could make a living at art,” alleged Mike.  “Unless you were in the 1/10 of one percent that was fortunate enough to be discovered at a young age it just didn’t happen.”  Having no interest in art as a child, Mike was not among those discovered at a young age however his son was.

Pride was evident on Mike’s face as he described the artist his son had become since he had been denied his talent at a young age.  “They believe that he copied it. That it was too good for somebody in the middle school to do,” alleged Mike.  “Now he is an art teacher at one of the private schools in the greater Philadelphia area.  He has done murals on six story buildings.”

In a step outside the traditional, much like his art, Mike looks up to his son who was headed for college but chose to put his art first.  “It was one of the hardest decisions when he was in high school,” described Mike remembering how he felt knowing his son had made a choice for a difficult life.

“We have a vision of the starving artist living in a cold water walk up flat,” recalled Mike.  “That didn’t bother him at all. He was more concerned about his art.”

This attitude may have been inspired by Mike who thinks art should be more appreciated.  “I think that society is different than it was 20-30 years ago in that people don’t invest in original art,” lamented Mike.  “They buy a piece at Hobby Lobby that matches their sofa rather than looking at artists who have created something.”

Although Mike has taken practical steps in his career choices he has never stopped creating.  “My original introduction to art was in the traditional fine arts school of landscapes and such,” stated Mike explaining that he has used a variety of mediums.

“I have played with them all I think. Anything from colored wax to pen and ink or marker, said Mike who once used primarily oils but now favors acrylics. “In the early years there was no such thing as acrylic paint. Problem with oils is you’d have to wait weeks sometimes for the paint to dry and you’d have to protect it from getting bumped or whatever. So right now, my favorite is acrylic because it’s quick. It dries quickly and most of my work is multi-layer pieces so acrylic works much better for that.”

Mike receives inspiration for these pieces from within however he occasionally gets an idea elsewhere that leads to a new project. “I started a new piece yesterday just to push through a block that I had,” confided Mike describing painting like writer’s block.  “The good thing about artwork is if you paint something that’s terrible that’s OK because you just paint over it. In fact, I’d say at least 50% of my pieces have been painted over.   They’re just not there, I don’t have a vision for where they’re going, so I just kind of go in a new direction with them.”

Going in a new direction is what led Mike to North Carolina and the Yadkin Valley to begin with.  “We could pretty much move from the Philadelphia area to any place we wanted to,” stated Mike.  “We considered Florida and then we spent some time in North Carolina.”

While it was having all four seasons with a truncated winter was what initiated the move it’s the people that has kept Mike here.  “I remember I had a friend who was down from Johnstown Pennsylvania visiting and we went to Tractor Supply,” recalled Mike.  “As we’re going through, I was talking with one guy about sweet feed for the horses, and another one what was the best water bucket, and I had about four or five conversations going through Tractor Supply. He said, ‘Why do you know everybody here?’ I said ‘I’ve never met any of them in my life. People just talk to each other.’”

While people may be very friendly it might be Mike’s own attitude that encourages conversations.  His enthusiasm for art is obvious.  “To have an abstract picture in your mind and to be able to put it on a medium of some type is just fabulous. Very satisfying,” enthused Mike who often brings new pieces to the gallery at 113 East Main Street in Elkin.  “I have always developed my craft I guess you could say and constantly worked at that.”

You are invited to come see what Mike has been working on at the heArt & Soul of the Yadkin Valley Gallery at 113 East Main Street in #HistoricDowntownElkin.