Mike Eli and the Decapitated Unicorn


Mike Eli lives in the hills in an awesome little house with a great dog and a great girl (Savanna Snow, I recently saw her studio too.) He is a woodworker/carpenter guy too. His incredibly imaginative, almost street style drawings are featured on the Bright Darkness postcard and his work will be in the show of the same name. He let me in the other day and we had a couple of beers as we lazed around his sketchbooks. -obi

Obi: You mentioned that you draw the same thing over and over again. I find your drawing to be actually really varied. Where are the motifs you draw again and again and why do you fixate on them?

Mike: Flowers, rocks, skulls, tubes, branches or veins, little hairs, blood, poop, spit, smoke and clouds, rain and water…. Things of nature mostly. I like to mix metaphors as I was always told not too. I am not much good at doing as I am told.
I like to change up my drawing style and drawing something repeatedly might seem to be an exercise in futility. I will be drawing a cartoon style flower and at the same time wonder how would a vato view the same flower and I would draw it as I imagine that.Whatever, drawing has always been a discipline and an exploration for me drawing something familiar often leads to unexpected results.

Some artists can become factories for their own little logo/icon art I can’t do that, I need to change and grow constantly. I draw from my subconscious most of the time and I am often not quite sure what it’s all about.

Obi: I know you had a show at Boontling a couple years back, your work is so good, why aren’t you showing more?

Mike: Thanks for the compliment. Are you asking me to show my work? Yes, the answer is yes.

I am highly selective of who and where my art is seen. I have had great success in the past. Now, I am looking for the right opportunities. Derek and Mike really did something special with Boontling and I will always appreciate their efforts on my behalf. There space was the right place at the right time.

Your show is the right place right time. I don’t make this up as I go along it just flows. I have a great deal of respect for what you and the Compound Gallery are doing to establish an community for artists in Oakland. If there were more guys like you I’d probably show more.

Many of the galleries I have interst in have booked shows into 2010. This is a little disconcerting as art is nebulous and what is booked to show in 2011 might not be what art is about then. I like low key anyhow.


Obi: The Beheaded Unicorn? Mike, are your images metaphors?

Mike: It could be a symbol for the angst I feel for British Petroleum and University of California wanting to take a big fat stinking dump in Strawberry canyon. The presence of British corporate imperialism in California irks me a bit…

It could symbolize a desire for destroying misguided ideology or misapplied mythology. It must frustrating to have other people’s notion of right and wrong thrust upon you. Prop 8 is inexcusable and I can see the moral majority fading out. It would be grand to annul pious people influence in politics…

or it could be that I really can’t stand unicorns. I really can’t stand ’em

These are little drawings you can see stacked in his hand in the picture.
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