Beautiful Precision

 

When Michael Carini’s out in public, he looks tense. At a café a few months ago, he sat down on a couch and pulled plastic-covered pages from his portfolio and a printed artist statement, then looked at me intensely, trying hard to gauge my level of approval.

“I kind of live a life of seclusion,” the 26-year-old says. “I don’t go out much. I have a neurological condition so I really don’t feel comfortable going out in public.”

Carini has Tourette syndrome, and, along with some of the negative symptoms—anxiety, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, mood swings and physiological tics—it’s part of why he’s so prepared for the interview. It’s also a big part of why his paintings are so technical and precise.

“Part of Tourette’s is that you want to control everything,” explains Carini, who’s surprisingly honest and open, partly because he seems oblivious of social norms.

The artist has produced three bodies of work. The first, The Lost Shepherd, a series of paintings depicting German shepherds set against backdrops of colorful grids, he completed while in college at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. The paintings are big and painstaking in their precision (he used a single-hair brush to paint individual hairs on the dogs). But people didn’t seem to understand the work. He became known as “The Dog Guy” even though the dog was merely a symbol for his idea that even someone like a shepherd can get lost. Carini quit—partly out of frustration and partly because the detailed, figurative work was bringing out his obsession with control and perfection.

“I still do technical work,” he says. “I just don’t do representational work anymore. With my condition, the abstract allows me to be done when I want to be. The [shepherd paintings] were too much. I would not leave my house. I would even skip work and class because I had to paint until it’s done, and then when it was done, I had to immediately start something else.”

Read the rest of the story.

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