Words are not an option for some artists seeking to convey their thoughts, feelings and intentions. Creators like Judith Scott rely primarily on artistic expression and creativity to communicate with the broader world around them. In a similar manner, and following the events of September 11th, 2001, Walter Mika (b. 1961) spontaneously began drawing hard-lined renditions of firemen and police officers in deep shades of red, blue and black pastel. While he was unable to verbally explain their significance in depth, these figures were obviously heroes to Mika, and they were quickly added into rotation with his other favorite subjects: the Easter Bunny, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Santa Claus and later Barack Obama.
As images, Walter Mika’s drawings might register as child-like at first glance, but upon deeper reflection they expose a keen understanding of the complex nature and vast range of human emotions. And while it is undeniable that his work shares a visual affinity with cartoons, to the artist these pictures are a determined and direct representation of the world around him– a celebration of the everyday and a vibrant tribute to the contemporary events and pop-cultural figures that inspire him as an artist.
Mika has been creating visual art in New York City for over 30 years. He is ambidextrous and utilizes both his left and right hands to draw, sometimes employing both at the same time to produce artwork that unconsciously references artists ranging from Joyce Pensato to Georg Baselitz, A.R. Penck and Karel Appel. To create his dense images, oil pastels and crayons are applied with incredible pressure onto paper, canvas and wood, resulting in bold forms that feel both playful and slightly haunted.
The exhibition Funny Bunny is in partnership with Pure Vision Arts, a non-profit arts space in New York City that provides individuals with developmental disabilities and autism the opportunity to create art full-time in an open and unstructured environment. Walter Mika has drawn and made art since childhood, but he found a new and profound sense of artistic purpose following his transition into the Shield Institute Day Habilitation program in Bayside Queens and then later at the Pure Vision studio program, which he joined in 2002. Since enrolling in these programs, Mika has been included in more than 45 exhibitions and his work has been placed into numerous private collections.