With his edgy style and “Rockstar of the Art World” reputation, Michael Godard knows people might misinterpret his true personality.
“People assume that with the tattoos and the long hair that I’m some sort of wild man,” Godard laughs. “And it’s so the opposite.”
In his new collection, Godard explores the many different sides of his identity. Drawing on his life in Las Vegas as well as his comical nature, “Lights, Camera, Olives!” paints a colorful portrait of the artist himself.
A Stroll Down the Vegas Strip
Walking through Godard’s collection, several major themes pop off the walls: martinis, gambling and golf, all of which are connected to his upbringing in Las Vegas. As a child in the 1960s, Godard frequently traveled to the city to visit his father and grandparents.
“It was fascinating as a kid to see all the big lights and all that stuff,” Godard said.
During part of high school, Godard moved to live with his father in the City of Lights. He later attended college in Las Vegas. Despite his undeniable creative genius, Godard has always been passionate about another subject — math. Before beginning his art career, Godard worked as a mechanical engineer for 12 years.
“I’m a math geek. I love math,” Godard says.
His love of math creeps into his art. In a handful of his paintings, Godard’s olives are shown rolling bright red dice with decks of cards and smoking cigars nearby. Although his Las Vegas upbringing plays into the gambling-themed paintings, Godard says the real inspiration is his love of math.
“I’m fascinated by the statistics and the math behind gambling,” Godard says.
Even more than gambling, wine and spirits are strong Las Vegas inspirations seen throughout Godard’s collection. In his paintings, Godard features strong drinks from a Moscow mule to jack and coke, but while the paintings are real enough to taste, the experience isn’t one Godard savors.
“I just never really enjoyed the taste,” Godard explains. “But, it’s funny because that’s what I paint.”
Growing up, neither of Godard’s parents drank. He later followed suit, only enjoying the occasional glass of his own Michael Godard brand vodka.
After witnessing Godard’s spirit-inspired paintings, collectors are surprised to learn Godard is not a heavy drinker.
“I look at alcohol as a very social thing,” Godard says. “I think people can relate to the alcohol part of it because it’s sort of like celebrating life.”
Ranging from whimsical to striking, each of Godard’s paintings tells a story. Godard says he uses these drinks as a “vehicle” to represent the important milestones in people’s lives.
“It’s the glasses of wine we share together with good friends,” Godard describes. “It’s the champagne we have when we’re celebrating a wedding.”
The Birth of the Olive
Godard created his very first cocktail-inspired painting when a close friend asked for a portrait of his favorite drink for his birthday — a dirty martini with two olives. True to his comical nature, Godard painted his friend’s request with a twist, animating the pair of olives inside the drink.
After discovering his olive muses, Godard began painting grapes for wine connoisseurs as well as the occasional strawberry to pair with a bottle of champagne.
“I can get away with doing things because they’re fruit or they’re strawberries that I can’t in real life,” Godard said. “It just pushes the edge a little bit.”
Throughout his collection, Godard’s “naughty” olives can be found swimming, dancing and even falling in love. Godard says he enjoys the challenge of animating characters without human features.
“You never see faces on my little characters because what I’m trying to do is address the challenge of saying something with body language rather than with a facial expression,” Godard says.
The playful olives are not a reflection of Godard’s experiences alone. Godard says many of his paintings are modeled after people he has known for years as well as people he has just met. If you ever run into Godard at a Park West event, keep an eye out for his new work — you might just see yourself in it.
The Game of Art
Another twist in Godard’s new collection are his golf paintings. With olives shooting nine holes throughout his artwork, one might assume Godard was a skilled golfer.
“I’m terrible at golf,” Godard admits. “I am horrible at it, but I still enjoy it.”
Spending the last 10 years of his life living on different golf courses in Las Vegas, Godard says he draws upon many of the frustrations of the game in his artwork. In Godard’s paintings, some of his olives are stuck in sand traps and others have crashed their golf cart or hit the ball in the wrong direction.
“It’s about the struggles in golf rather than the celebration,” Godard says.
While his olives are busy playing par-4, Godard compares his thematic approach to creating his artwork with another game: chess.
“There’s a thousand different choices on what to paint, how to paint it; I’m looking for the best one every time,” Godard says.
Godard says 90 percent of the work that goes into his paintings is spent actually thinking of what he’s going to paint, not the execution itself.
“By the time I actually grab the canvas,” Godard says, then claps. “I got it.”
To view more of Godard’s eccentric paintings, visit his “Lights, Camera, Olives!” collection online or stop by Park West Gallery in Southfield, Michigan. Godard’s paintings will be on display through November 18, so catch them before they dance away!