An ongoing series introducing Greater Lowell’s creative minds
By Tory Germann
Step inside the loo at Brew’d Awakening Coffehaus, 61 Market St., and you’ve just entered the colorful imagination of painter, promoter and musician, Mike Dailey Jr. His floor-to-ceiling public art work showcases a motley crew of characters looking down on you while you’re hopefully washing your hands after taking care of business.
Some of the faces in this epic collaboration by Dailey and Lowell artist Rick Stec are based on real-life Lowellians, including downtown denzien Ted Lavash, Brew’d Awakening owner and operator Andy Jacobson and “a local Realtor” to name a few, Dailey says.
Of course, Dailey’s work goes beyond downtown’s most interesting bathroom. The co-director of one of the city’s newest and youngest art communities, UnchARTed Studios, says if he had his way there would be be a lot more spaces in the future open for artists to express themselves.
Q: What catches your artistic eye?
A:When I’m drawing, it’s about watching that instant expression. More specifically, the infinite expression of the human face.
Q: What inspires you?
A: I’ve always drawn and seen faces in everything ever since I was a kid, filling notebooks with doodles without any direction. I could look at a tree and see 85 faces.
Q: Did you study art in school?
A: I never took classes, but in 1999 I started painting my drawings and had a small art show at Brew’d Awakening and sold out of my work – mostly to friends but I felt encouraged.
Q: How do you describe your approach to painting?
A: Every painting has its own life. Its own reveal process. I just don’t want to see any false moves. A lot of people looking at art want hours of meticulous rendering but raw expression means more to me.
Q: What materials do you work with?
A: I tend to work with folding panel doors because they’re sturdy and light. Material wise, I don’t obsess over it. If someone gives me 26 cans of paint, I’ll work with that.
Q:What was your breakthrough moment?
A: Around 2006 I made my first large-scale painting and entered it in a juried show at 119 Gallery. It was bought by Walter Wright (events producer at 119). That felt like real validation to me.
Q: Do you have any icons?
A: There is something to appreciate about all art, but I lean towards surrealists like Jim Woodring and Crumb. Ivan Brunetti is a crazy talented illustrator. I love (local artists) Eyeformation, Rick Stec for his superb detail and deranged mind, Lindsey Parker for her ingenious use of plants and color, Adam Norton who does a ton of amazing things with laser cut plexiglass — I could go on and on — there’s just so many good artists in Lowell.
Q: There have been some changes at UnchARTed art studios, which you co-direct, what’s new?
A:Now that we are at ground level at our new location, 66 Merrimack Street in Lowell, we have more visibility. Finding that space was pure luck.
Q: Why should the public put UnchARTed on their radar?
A: We’re trying to create an environment where seeing the art and listening to the band is a priority. The public has been super receptive because there’s a huge need here. We are offering a different perspective on art in the city – it really doesn’t have to look like white wine and cheese.
Visit Mike Dailey at UNCHARTED STUDIOS, 66 Merrimack St., Lowell.