Sandoval Signpost
An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Featured Artist

Artist Michael Andryc

Angel Babka Silencing The Scream (After Edvard Munch), by Michael Andryc

Grandma And The Village, by Michael Andryc

Signpost featured artist Michael Andryc:

a sophisticated primitive modern artist

—Oli Robbins

Many artists assume alter-egos. For Marcel Duchamp, it was Rrose Selavy (translated in English to “Eros, that is life”), and for German surrealist Max Ernst it was a bird named “Loplop.” For Michael Andryc, it’s his Polish grandmother, Anna. Michael, a self-proclaimed “sophisticated primitive modern artist” (yes, he acknowledges the inherent irony of such a title) admits that as a child he was “deathly afraid” of his Babka Anna Andryc, in part because she spoke a foreign language in a time when “no one wanted to talk about their origins before coming to America,” and because she was a woman more tenacious than the era allowed.

“She was such a strong woman—married three times—something which was unheard of in those days. One husband even mysteriously disappeared!” Now Michael enjoys hiding behind her in his paintings, traveling with her on outlandish adventures.

Michael grew up in a small factory town in Rhode Island, his first introduction to art inside a local Catholic church. He recalls the stained glass windows, electric lights, and figurines looking “like Hollywood.” He was attracted to the art and felt deeply confident that he could make his own—so much so that he just didn’t. Instead, he purged his creativity with a pen on page. Michael wrote fiction for 15 years, penning a soap operatic novel as a teenager and later attaining a literary grant. Even though Michael had been equally drawn to writing and painting, he was more intimidated by the latter, which then seemed so technical and expensive.

Years of writing left him burned out, so Michael took a year off to experiment with the visual side of storytelling. He found that it suited him well, and whereas writing might only be understood by a few and demands publication for success, painting transcends language and can appeal to anyone. Michael’s father, a florist and avid fisherman, was a great creative influence for Michael, who recalls his exceptional story-telling abilities. Even with minimal schooling, his father was well-read and “as good as Hemingway and Steinbeck” at coining stories. Just like his Babka, Michael’s mother and father feature prominently in his paintings.

Other than one drawing class in junior college, Michael is entirely self-taught, “reinventing the wheel and palette,” as he puts it. His process is spontaneous and experiential, testing colors and imagery until achieving a satisfying composition. Says Michael, “it’s kind of like how you cook without a recipe, from scratch.” Michael’s subject matter includes fantastical interpretations of animals as well as esteemed musicians, writers, and psychoanalysts. He also looks to older, iconic works of art, feeling that his own paintings are rooted in those of modern master painters like van Gogh, Gauguin, Chagall, Picasso, Modigliani, and Max Beckmann. During his sole drawing class in college, Michael’s instructor encouraged him to explore Chagall. Since then, he’s been deeply connected to the Russian artist and his old-world pictorial folklore. He spoofs many famous works by Chagall and the others, oftentimes creating social commentary. Perhaps above all else, Michael aims to convey humor, and he relishes promoting laughter for the viewer.

During the Vietnam war, after obtaining status as a conscientious objector, Michael was summoned West by a dear friend. As soon as he experienced the landscape and character of the Southwest, he knew he would never return east. “It was hard to leave, but I just had this desire to develop myself as an artist. So I did.” The first place he called home was a teepee in Durango, followed by Santa Fe, where his two children attended a community school after years of home schooling.

For much of Michael’s young adult life he lived in poverty, painting and sometimes undertaking side jobs to support his family. Then, after inheriting a modest amount of money following his parents’ deaths, he channeled his creativity and inventiveness to build a house for his family outside of Pecos. He painted and showed in Santa Fe for 34 years, exhibiting with several artists’ groups and every weekend at open-air venues. But in September of 2012, his time in Santa Fe came to a close when the complex that held his studio was destroyed. “A fire drove a number of us artists out of our studios,” says Michael. “No one was injured, though a few people lost everything, and we were lucky to get out alive.”

Even though all 21 artists were ordered to vacate the premises and relocate immediately, Michael camped out in his studio for two months. He explains, “I was forced to get more organized. I spent hours cataloguing my work, reflecting on my priorities.”

On “becoming” an artist, Michael says: “Anyone can do it that wants to. It’s just wanting to do it and sticking with it. It’s not an easy life, but it’s a really, really rewarding one... There’s nothing like it—to be able to make people happy and do something good in the world.”

From July 6 to 27, Michael’s works will be on display in “Encantada,” a show assembled by the Rio Grande Art Association at Expo New Mexico. The opening reception will be on July 6, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. His paintings also hang at the Jemez Fine Art Gallery and at Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos. A large collection of his paintings and more information on the artist can be found on his website:

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