As Curator of Bullseye Projects’ gallery operation, lead organizer of its Artist Residency programs, exhibition designer, teacher, and lecturer, Michael Endo’s job has taken him from a musty basement in Portland’s Pearl District to a blanket bog in the Scottish Highlands. His MFA in painting (Cranbrook Academy of Art, 2009) and his 16-year history as an exhibiting artist got him in the door at Bullseye. Once inside, his innovative vision and relentless energy have shaped a program unique in the world of contemporary glass.
So, Michael, tell us…
Installing Emily Nachison’s “Apparition”, part of the PERMEABLE STRUCTURE exhibition, summer 2016.
Lani McGregor: Why glass? As an artist working in varied media from paint to stone to glass, is there something about the material that engages you in both your curatorial and personal/artistic ventures?
Michael Endo: This is “the” question, isn’t it? I think that in both popular culture and in the art world there is a renewed attention being paid to material. More and more we are looking to material as the carrier of meaning rather than as a substance that can be molded to create meaning. The first important statement that an artist makes is the material(s) they choose. Glass, physically and conceptually, is unlike any other material. It is ubiquitous and yet mysterious. It is a material that predates the pyramids of Giza and is also the material that will define the future. It makes so many fields of science possible. What is astronomy or biology without lenses? What is chemistry without beakers and test tubes? What is the internet without fiber optics? Yet, it is the material of the everyday; bottles, baking dishes, cups, eyeglasses…no other material has such a wealth of meaning.
Michael, followed by co-worker Laura O’Quin, helps to lead collectors to the edge of the glass world on Bullseye’s 2016 “Byre Tour”.
LM: You've taught and guided workshops and symposia for artists and collectors around the world. What does travel do for art - making and engaging?
ME: One of the reasons I was attracted to art, as a practice and a discipline of study, is that it encourages one to think broadly and across subjects and cultures to create new ideas and see things from new perspectives. Travel, of course, can do this as well, but what traveling is very good at is disarming us; it strips us of the comfortable and the familiar and thus our confrontations with new ideas, with art, become even more potent. In combination, art and travel have generated the most powerful and defining moments in my life.
Michael preparing work for "Crossover: A Material Exchange", part of Bullseye's biennial international kiln-glass conference, BECon.
LM: You rose rapidly through the ranks at (the former) Bullseye Gallery, from registrar to curator. Were there stops along the way that you'd like to hold on to?
ME: I’m sure you will agree that in retrospect, especially in comparison to Sarah Douglass, I was a mediocre Registrar. So, I wouldn’t want to hold on to anything; however, there is one thing I miss. I loved opening a new artwork for the first time, inspecting it, and learning about it by holding it. In the basement, alone, listening to music - I would often be the first person to see the work other than the artist. That is a rare and special thing.
Michael and friend take a break in the garden at the opening of Bullseye’s first Byre exhibition.
LM: Which is more of a challenge to manage, an Eagle Owl or an artist?
ME: This is a dangerous question, I plead the fifth! I will say that holding that Eagle Owl was a humbling experience. If I obeyed the rules, I was about as interesting as a stump. If I broke the rules, I was just another thing to eat and claw. I felt inconsequential...but I enjoyed it all the same. Maybe artists and eagle owls aren't as dissimilar as one might think?