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Meet Mike Geno

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mike Geno.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I am actually a Philadelphia based artist and my main focus has been on food. As a painter, I realize my life has been filled with food memories and I find the connection to them the best way to relate to my work. Everyone has their own and they often are regional and connect us to our community. In grad school it took me a while to realize my history as a meat cutter was a great source of inspiration for my studio. In 2001 I started a series of meat paintings that were shown nationally and internationally and appeared in and on covers of publications. This unexpected path has continued since then and food has frequently kept my work in the media, and connecting me to various communities as a result.

Please tell us about your art.
I create still life oil paintings of food. I almost always work from life to best capture the details and formal aspects of my subjects, so I can concentrate my focus and translate it into a form of worship. Several years ago, I needed a small group of paintings of a new food subject for an exhibit. I stumbled onto cheese but I hesitated because, like a typical American, I knew nothing about “good cheese”. Fortunately, I met a woman named Tenaya Darlington, at a party and she told me she wrote about cheese; I thought that was absurd and wonderful. Through her blog, Madame Fromage, I contacted her and she offered her help. It turned from an initial cheese mentorship into one of my most cherished friendships. Tenaya’s blog exposed my new work to the cheese world. I had no idea this community of artisan cheese makers, mongers and enthusiasts and suddenly they were contacting me about my work.

This lead to a series of great breaks including being featured in the New York Times and various publications afterwards. I have now painted well over 300 “cheese portraits”. I call them that because my work aims to focus on the story behind each cheese. I discovered that artisan handmade cheeses from around the world connect to communities, much like my earlier food art does. The more I learned about cheese I realized the American Cheese World is bursting with greatness and most of the world has no idea; this lead to my project of painting a “cheese map”. I aim to paint at least one cheese portrait from each state, at the moment, I have only 4 to go!

This project has helped me connect to various people around the country, including a commission from Houston. The owner of Huston Dairymaids, a shop which features artisan cheese from Texas, commissioned this as a gift for the cheesemaker of “Hopelessly Bleu”. This beautiful blue cheese is made of goat’s milk from Pure Luck Farms located near Dipping Springs, TX. It was such a pleasure to get this piece of beautiful art and make my own to memorialize it. Texas has at inspired a few paintings from me and I never lose sight of how fortunate I am to experience it.

Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
The world has become more inter-connected and the internet made it all seem smaller in some ways but expanded our options at the same time. Artists no longer need to be located in a specific location to reach the world. Social media has continued to fuel the DYI movement and expose us to larger audiences. At the same time our community that supports us can be scattered across the globe and that can be a good thing while also limiting our direct contact with an audience. I think these changes have required us all to adjust and evolve along with it and I have really enjoyed it.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My works is accessible from my website, I also enjoy a regular presence on Instagram under: mikegenostudio. I usually sell directly from my site and keep the price as reasonable as possible by making it available directly from there. Also, once I sell a painting, I make an archival matted print of it available for an even more accessible price; prints are popular gifts it seems.

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