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Central MA’s Michael Zeis delivers “Delicious and Refreshing” Photography

Monday, November 12, 2012

 

The Harvest Grille in Sterling will feature the photographic art work of award-winning local artist Michael Zeis through the second week of December. The art exhibit will feature more than twenty shots from the artist's "Delicious and Refreshing" collection, which contains creative photos of painted wall ads.

What are "painted wall ads" you may ask? Well, they are just that; advertisements for companies and products such as Coca Cola, Diamond Ginger Ale, Omega Oil, and Quaker Oats that were painted on the sides of brick buildings long ago. These wall ads are often very faded and sometimes barely noticeable since this method of advertisement has long been out of fashion.

But for Zeis, this is exactly what attracts him to the wall ads as a way to portray his artistic talents.

"There is a bittersweet quality to forgotten and forlorn wall ads, since they only show hints of the bluster they must have had when new."

Historical resonance and nostalgia is essential for Zeis, showing the connection between history and art. In his artist statement, he explains this connection with a specific example.

"The Coke ad in Putnam Connecticut is a puzzle," says Zeis, "because the ad can't really be seen from the street--you have to go down an alley and into a back-of-the-building parking lot to see the sign, three stories high. You don't advertise in a secluded spot, so the we have to imagine how the city might have looked when the ad was painted nearly a century ago."

Coca-Cola is featured in many of his photographs, as an old and successful company, their vintage ads, often from the early half of the 20th century, can still be commonly seen on old brick buildings.

Luckily, the aesthetic of these ads, sometimes referred to as "ghost ads", have only improved through time for Zeis' purposes, especially lending themselves to the elegant manifestations of the photos Zeis wishes to show.

"I like the way time and the elements soften the colors and add texture to the surface, " he says.  "Many surviving wall ads have lost their color to sun, snow, and rain, but remain beautiful in their faded state," he says in his artist statement. 

"Wall ads have historical value, and also serve as fine examples of vintage graphic design, usually including great lettering, too."

Mike Zeis' photography from a number of different collections has been seen around the country, from galleries in San Francisco to New York City to Portland, Oregon. But he mostly stays local, recently having his art featured at Worcester City Hall, the Worcester Academy of Music, the Davis Art Gallery in Worcester, UMass Amherst, the Alternatives Community Gallery in Uxbridge, and many other places in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

In addition to photographing painted wall ads, Zeis also makes a practice of photographing other old signs, neon signs, and "unusual" front lawns; he also photographs nature from time to time, adding to his collection of wildflower photos. He practices a form of art called "ink jet transfer" as well, where a photo is printed with an ink-jet printer and the paper is then placed ink-side down on a damp piece of watercolor paper, resulting in eye-popping beauty.

All in all, though it can be wide-ranging in content, Zeis' photography centers around one important idea. "What drives my photography is an interest in how things we make reflect who we are",  he says.

For more information on Zeis' various exhibits or to view Michael Zeis' photos, click here.
 

 

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