©Seattle Times Entertainment & the Arts: Sunday, July 21, 2002
The art of grief: Tragedy, as we have seen, can be personal, and national
By Alex Tizon
Seattle Times staff reporter
...Whereas Britton's paintings seem fearful of the future, the new works of fellow artist Jeff Mihalyo seem weighted with the melancholy of a past loss.
Not that his work is a downer. In fact, one of the striking qualities of his paintings is the juxtaposition of things that sink with things that float. Grief and buoyancy. Loss and recovery. A barn next to, say, a giant, naked, floating woman.
"That's intentional," he says.
Mihalyo, 37, tall and wiry, with intense dark eyes, has been exhibiting as an artist in the Seattle area for 10 years. He designs software by day and paints by night.
Two months after 9/11, his wife of 10 years left him. He says a lot of people in his circle reassessed their lives, and as a result, some broke up and some came together. For Mihalyo, 9/11 has become so intertwined with the end of his marriage that, in his mind, they are part of the same experience. National catastrophe merged with personal calamity.
His post-9/11 paintings show a lot of detached and deconstructed buildings and bridges, like wreckage from a battle, rowboats with lone rowers, figures of ghostly floating women in various stages of recline.
The image of jetliners piercing the World Trade Center became so deeply imprinted in Mihalyo's mind, he says, that monstrous, man-made creations flying through the air became a motif, as in "Shipping Lane," where a giant metal tanker hovers past what appears to be ancient ruins.
It's hard to know the exact provenance of such images, and most artists are loathe to give definitive explanations for their work, but Mihalyo freely admits that his latest paintings have been to some degree therapeutic.
"The function of creation," said the writer Richard Rhodes, "is always, always, the alleviation of pain."