Studio Tour: Meet Artist Mikel Frank

Q&A: Learn more about the artists you'll be meeting on the South Orange-Maplewood Artists Studio Tour.

Over the past eight years, the phrase “the first Sunday in June” has become synonymous with the visual arts in South Orange and Maplewood. This is the day reserved for the popular . Newly improved and sporting a new logo, the 2012 tour boasts an expanded website with interactive maps and artist information, and one additional and particularly welcome new feature: this years’ South Orange Maplewood will be free for visitors. Visit the site to plan your tour.

In anticipation of the event, a number of artists were willing to answer questions about their work and what they will be showing on the studio tour this year. The first of these artist spotlights is on Maplewood’s Mikel Frank.

How would you describe the artwork that you create?

I would describe it as abstract for the most part. But lately I’ve been using appropriated images to create narrative in my encaustic collage work.

How would you describe your artwork on twitter (140 characters or less)?

“Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth”—Picasso

When did you start making art?

In High School when I was a teenager

What is your preferred medium?



I love the fluid nature of oil paint. It feels organic to me.

How long have you been working in that medium?

I work in all different kinds of media. So, I wouldn’t say that I only work in oil. But, I have been working with it for over 30 years on and off.

What compels you to create?

An inner feeling that comes from a place of sheer need and joy of life. It’s not really a choice. I know that when I’m not creating something or involved in something creative…I don’t feel as good as when I am. I love to do it. Art is a way of life and it can sustain you until you die.

Are you inspired by other forms of art such as music, literature, poetry?  How do they relate your work?

I am totally inspired by other forms of art. My day job is Stage Manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I work with musicians, artists, actors, poets, writers and curators/scholars all the time. I am very lucky that way. And also when I don’t have a show to manage, I go into the galleries of the Met Museum. There could be no better place for an artist to take breaks than at the Met. As a result of working at the Met I have been able to meet and get involved in many creative projects. The most memorable was The Gates Project in Central Park in 2005.

 I worked on a crew that built 99 gates behind the Metropolitan Museum. Working with Christo and Jeanne-Claude on this project was thrilling for me.


What is the most important idea of our time?

Specifically, The iPhone and cell phones in general.

What is the most surprising experience you’ve ever had?

The impact of death.

Is there something that inspires your work and how is it represented in the art you create?

Everything I do and see inspires my work. But the one thing that really gets me going is LOVE.

Do you have a favorite artist?  Who and how has that artist inspired your own work? Willem de Kooning knocks me out when I see the energy and life in his work. Nobody tops him for the wonder of the brush stroke.

Was there someone who initially encouraged you to create?

There are two people in my life who stand out as inspirational on an interpersonal level. One was a teacher I had at MICA (Maryland Institute, College of Art) where I did my BFA. His name is Barry Nemett. He excited me about art and taught me how to look…to see the connections in things. The other person is Gerard Amsellem, who I am currently collaborating. I think it is unique and very special, not to mention difficult for two artists to work together on paintings and creative projects and not want to kill each other. It’s been working very well. Our future project at 1978 Maplewood Arts Center this coming July will be a huge undertaking and I am very excited about it.

If you knew you would never sell another work of art, would you continue to make art?

OF COURSE! Money is nothing compared to the joy of creating.

What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?

The naked female body.

When do you create your artwork?

Whenever I can find the time. But, I seem to be more creative at night.

Do you have a favorite local exhibition or gallery space? What do you like about it? 1978 Maplewood Arts Center of course is my favorite. I am on the board and it is an exciting and creative force in the community. My other favorite is on Ridgewood Rd. in Maplewood.

Have you ever exhibited on the studio tour before? How many years?

Yes, on and off since it began. I usually open my own studio, which is in my converted garage. But this year I wanted to be at since that is where Gerard and I are installing the Visual Passion: On Love project and I wanted to talk to people about it.

What do you enjoy about opening your studio for the tour?

Meeting people and having them see my work and getting their responses.

What sort of artwork do you plan on exhibiting in this year’s tour?

I plan on bringing my studio to Gallery 1978 and trying to duplicate the experience of walking into a studio as opposed to just having my work hanging on the wall. In the spirit of the Visual Passion piece we are doing in July.

Mikel has worked as Stage Manager in charge of production at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York since 1985. He is an accomplished artist and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY. He has exhibited his work widely and his paintings hang in private collections throughout the country. Since April of 2002, Mikel has been the leader of an art critique group called The Contemporary Artists Forum at 1978 Maplewood Arts Center. He also sits on the Advisory Board of the 1978 Maplewood Arts Center and is co-chair of the exhibitions committee.

This July, Mikel will be collaborating on Visual Passion: On Love, an interactive installation, with fellow artist Gerard Amsellem at 1978.


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