O.C. Native Michael Callas Connects the Past with the Present At Laguna Beach's JoAnne Artman Gallery

By Kerry Snider | April 9, 2020 | People


Artist Michael Callas poses at Laguna Beach’s JoAnne Artman Gallery in front of his piece “Bronzino” (spray paint and stencil on canvas), 79.25 inches by 53.25 inches

Michael Callas (michaelcallas.com) didn’t set out to be an artist. In fact, his sights were set on something a bit more occupationally conventional—architecture. “After a short stint in college, I realized my desire was not to build houses or buildings, but rather I was enamored by the aesthetics of architecture,” says the Mission Viejo native. “Although I have had a love of fine art’s aesthetic qualities my entire life, I never viewed fine art as a career path. I came to realize, though, that a true work of art serves more of a purpose to me than a drafting chair ever could have.”

Now, at 31, Callas’ O.C. upbringing has come full circle as Laguna Beach’s JoAnne Artman Gallery (joanneartmangallery.com) is the first local spot to offer his vivid works to the public. “I have been very lucky to have traveled the world. There are so many beautiful places that have their own character and personality to admire. However, there is nothing quite like Orange County; it represents the pinnacle of community planning and, in my opinion, is a true work of art.” That careful calculation of master-planned communities is paralleled in the premeditated approach Callas utilizes in his process, taking weeks to plan a piece before paint meets the canvas. An initial drawing on his iPad Pro leads to color choices and a detailed checklist for the stencils he crafts, with every element of a work receiving an assigned layer and name. A vigorous fitness routine allows Callas to stand for up to 13 hours at a time as he airbrushes paints onto a stretched canvas, choosing from an arsenal of over 5,000 aerosol colors.

While previous collections have paid homage to the graphic work of the famous Roy Lichtenstein, Callas’ latest pieces harken back a bit further. “The Renaissance movement is very special to me. I want to be part of art history and think the best way to do that is to participate in the conversation.” Fall 2020 will welcome Callas’ full response to that movement in Yes, Masters: A MANthology, an exhibition at JoAnne Artman Gallery, which focuses on the Renaissance men who influence today’s artists. His current piece on display at the gallery, titled “Bronzino,” draws upon 1500s Italian Mannerist artist Agnolo di Cosimo and his famous “Venus, Cupid and Satyr” painting. “I hope the viewer of my art will take away that even though the piece I painted was an original composition painted hundreds of years ago, the only thing that separates us from the artist is time,” he reflects. “I like building upon what has come before me, being able to refine and develop the past as to not forget it.” And it’s there, in that hindsight, that Callas has built his future—a bright one, indeed.


Photography by: John Dole