Each fall Michael Drury goes alone on a painting trip through the relatively unknown northeast corner of California and northwest Nevada. Michael belongs to that tradition of American painters who get restless when they are in town too long. Painters like George Catlin, Maynard Dixon, Rockwell Kent, and Michael’s mentor Ray Strong: painters who want to see what’s over the next mountain range or around the next point.
When Michael isn’t painting the Great Basin he is often roaming northern Santa Barbara county up through Big Sur, painting and surfing the wild stretches of California coast. He likes country where big chunks of land stick up into the sky or out to sea. His paintings are about the wonder of it all, and his insatiable appetite for it.
The big as life quality in Michael’s paintings comes from first hand experience. He grew up surfing in Santa Barbara, lived in France for several years, saw the Impressionists’ paintings, and painted the country they painted. He worked on a cattle ranch for most of his young adult life and his paintings of the West are authentic. But sophisticated. His work is about the West but it is informed by European painting, especially the nuances of color in the work of artists like Corot and Monet, and the significance of forms in the work of Ferdinand Hodler.
Although well-informed by the past, Michael’s work is about discovering the present, and he will gladly drive five hundred miles to paint some extinct volcano in the morning light, and he understands how to translate this experience into a painting: a big mountain looks big, and the dawn aurora on a high desert mesa has the quality of an epiphany.
Michael Drury’s paintings are about knowledge through experience. His energy, intelligence and sophistication elevate his work out of the prosaic into the poetic, and like good poetry his paintings are concentrated, imaginative, and powerful.
Santa Barbara 1996
I’ve been asked to add a few words to the very fine ones of Hank Pitcher and Gretel Ehrlich and the best words that I feel honored to write about Michael are his – in “American Artist” of October 1988:
“Painting is for me the pure visceral delight in the handling of inert materials that can be transformed, through some magic conjunction of thought and action, into air, light, and mass…”
So out of Santa Barbara surf, books, the Hollister Ranch, road-grading, tractors and post-holes has come this painter, Michael, landscape friend and “painting son”, with this fall and winter harvest of images.
The days will come when museums will want Drury paintings, Why not now? the opportunity to partake – as patrons – so more can be harvested – and yes, shared:
I sleep in my middle studio. On three walls are Michael Drurys: a 3′ x 5′ Jalama Hills in controlled greens with an Indian red underpainting. It ends each day and greets me in the morning. On the south wall – a barn of Nevada – somehow contains recurring seasons’ harvests of hay – embraced in its spatial patterns. The third is an after sunrise of an Irish salt arm of sea and low-lying pastures. I bought this one. It embraces me – and all three sustain my spirit and belief in landscapes that are painted out of experience – and quality of mind and living…
Santa Barbara, 1996