They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. San Diego artist Michael Carini has triumphed over adversity as he makes giving back to the community his top priority.
Growing up in San Diego, Carini’s artistic talents were apparent before age 13 when his work was selected for a youth art show at the San Diego Museum of Art. As a senior at UNI (now Cathedral Catholic) High School in Carmel Valley, his tessellated drawing won first place in the San Diego County fair.
Working his way through Loyola Marymount University, where in 2006 he graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Studio Arts and a minor in Art History, his extraordinary artistic talents were recognized as he apprenticed under acclaimed artists Jane Brucker and Roland Reiss.
However, life has not been effortless for Michael Carini. Challenges including neurological disorders such as Tourette’s syndrome and obsessive-compulsive tendencies have often made it difficult for him to function socially and professionally. Additionally, a violent assault in his home in 2009 required many months of healing from physical and emotional trauma.
Carini states pensively, “We all have obstacles we have to overcome and times of adversity. Rather than focus on the negative, however, I make a conscious choice to turn it into something positive.”
Never allowing them to define his character, Carini states, “My conditions and experiences are significant components of who I am, or who I was at a specific period of my life, and that is undoubtedly reflected in my work.” He continues, “My work shares personal narratives of my own life and experiences, filtered through a broad spectrum of art history of various cultures, philosophy, theology, geometry, and literature.”
Carini has courageously risen to his challenges. During the summer of 2012 the obsessive, socially uncomfortable artist faced his fears during a 50-day solo residency program in an extremely small, completely exposed studio space in the middle of Downtown San Diego.
He says of the confrontational experience, “It was very much a sociological experiment — me being in a box with people walking down Broadway all day long looking in at me.” With his door open to the public during the 500 hours in the space, Carini says, “I was there to spark interest, and my responsibility was to make people feel welcome and that art is approachable.”
He adds, “It was about me breaking out of my metaphorical box and learning to paint like a child again — intuitively, organically and naturally with just a brush, resulting in a freely expressive new body of work.” He emerged with a 30-piece series titled, “The Boy In The Box.”
It proved to be a transformative experience on many levels. Carini has escaped the limitations of his “box” with Houdini-like finesse. He is currently focused on creating an immense 9-canvas polyptych work based on fractals, the Golden Ratio, and the concept of a Rubik’s Cube with virtually countless orientations.
Carini’s attitude about giving back to the community has been a significant aspect of transcending his conditions. Donating his time and talents to nonprofit organizations, working to increase art awareness, and providing opportunities and inspiration for other artists, Carini states, “This is the greatest thing I can offer the world and I could receive no greater gift in return than to know I am making a difference in people’s lives.” He continues, “I am putting myself out there and never hold back. I will always give everything I have to give…and then I will give everything that is left.”
One of the most popular entries from Carini’s online daily journal of hope and inspiration reads, “I will never apologize for being me, but I will apologize for the times that I am not.” He comments, “The most important thing about being an artist, in my opinion, is making sure that you are being you. I will never waver from that.”
Carini goes on to say, “Our differences and our unique experiences are the greatest thing we have to offer the world. My hope is that by sharing my own, others may find a way to grow through inspirational and creative avenues such as painting, or simply discover that there is hope.”
With four distinctive bodies of work already to his credit, Carini states, “As I continue to grow, continuously redefining myself, I will have new boxes to break out of. My work, undoubtedly, will change in the process.”
Selected Michael Carini paintings are currently on display at the Merrill Lynch Building, 701 B Street.
For links to his daily journal, monthly “The Painter’s Edge” column, and to learn more about the artist, visit MichaelCarini.com.
Kay Colvin is an art consultant and director of the L Street Fine Art Gallery in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. She specializes in promoting emerging and mid-career artists and bringing enrichment programs to elementary schools through The Kid’s College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.