This painting depicts a group of young men and teenagers gambling on a side street in a rural Appalachian coal town at night; an older man seems to be losing his money, while an unattended rooster walks in a yard. This seemingly simple and strange painting is actually a deep exploration of a living and thriving folktale tradition.
Mike Ousley's paintings are direct comments on Appalachian life and traditions. The artist has painted since childhood; although trained in Western European traditions, the artist largely paints in the folk style of his youth. Ousley credits the visionary artists and rich heritage of the Appalachian region as his primary influence. Born the son of a coal miner in Southeastern Kentucky, the artist grew up listening to stories told by friends and family. Later, Ousley traveled to the Blue Ridge Mountains as an adult, absorbing more tales and experiences. The artist’s paintings are, at first glance, simple stories told in the folk tradition—tight vignettes of a memory, some odd anecdote or an old Appalachian tale. Upon further reflection, Ousley's work represents a broader struggle of the Appalachian peoples to secure their collective identity by embracing the rich heritage of their storytelling tradition.
About this piece, Ousley simply said: "Kids these days..."
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Mike Ousley’s paintings are tight vignettes that explore memories, odd anecdotes and old tales from Appalachia, directly commenting on the region’s traditions. Drawing influence from visionary artists and childhood tales he heard while growing up in Southeastern Kentucky, the artist often sets aside his training in Western European traditions for a folk-influenced style he developed in his youth. The simplicity and strangeness of the artist’s work belie their depth; they represent a broader struggle of the Appalachian peoples to secure their collective identity via a rich heritage of storytelling.
Mike Ousley was born in the small coal town of Hippo, Kentucky in 1976. The artist studied Education and Behavioral Sciences, before receiving a BFA from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky and an MFA in Painting and Drawing at University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Solo exhibitions of Ousley’s work include: Appalachian Anthem at Bloom-Richwood in Richwood, West Virginia (2022); and In Some Dark Holler at Stellarhighway in Brooklyn, New York (2021).
Group exhibitions that have shown Ousley’s work include: The Nature Mystics at Visions West Contemporary in Bozeman, Montana (2022); Storytellers at Taylor Annex Gallery in Abingdon, Virginia (2022); After Dark, an online presentation with mepaintsme.com (2022); Mountain Standard Time at Visions West Contemporary in Denver, Colorado (2021); From These Hills, curated by Michael Rooks at William King Museum of Art in Abingdon, Virginia (2021); Nine Lives at Fortnight Institute in New York City (2021); One in a Year at The Painting Center in New York City (2021); From Where We Stand at Thomas Moore College in Crestview Hills, Kentucky (2018); Images of the Mountains at Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky (2017); Four Seasons at Sherry French Gallery in New York City (2014); High Lonesome at Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio (2013); The Hills and From a Man's Perspective at The Pump House Art Gallery in Chillicothe, Ohio (2008, 2009); Something in the Water at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky (2007); and Drawing from Perception at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio (2006).
The artist has been published in Studio Visit Magazine, as well as ArtMaze Magazine as selected by Fabiola Alondra and Jane Harmon of Fortnight Institute in New York City.
Ousley studied with Alfred Leslie while an artist in residence at Huntington Museum of Art in Huntington, West Virginia. Additionally, the artist was an artist in residence at Arc of Appalachia in Bainbridge, Ohio; and at North Mountain Residency in Shanghai, West Virginia.
Ousley’s work is held in numerous public collections including the Ashland Community College in Ashland, Ohio; Ashland District of the United Methodist Church in Ashland, New York; Collection of Highlands Regional Medical Center in Prestonsburg, Kentucky; Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky; and Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
Ousley has been a juror, speaker and presenter at various institutions throughout Kentucky and Ohio.
This painting depicts a group of young men and teenagers gambling on a side street in a rural Appalachian coal town at night; an older man seems to be losing his money, while an unattended rooster walks in a yard. This seemingly simple and strange painting is actually a deep exploration of a living and thriving folktale tradition.More