Michael Wright: A re-print from the “Corsair” of Santa Monica College 10/4/09

Michael Wright: Legendary Virtual Artist Speaks
Peter Yoon
Issue date: 10/4/09 Section: A&E

Imagine if you will, the majestic seascape of Santa Cruz. Its swirling currents licking at the heels of surfers that brave the waters. The clash of each frothing wave captured in the heavy brush strokes of German expressionism.

The unique tints and hues merging together to display the harmony of man and nature. As you sit and watch in awe, you are overwhelmed with the knowledge that you are witnessing fine art. Switch slides, and gaze upon the photo of an aged man, distorted and pixilated, and another with the background smeared and skewed. Did someone mix up the slides? Is this a critique of photography as an art form? No, this is the work of Michael Wright.

Wright, also known as Mrags Writer, lectured at the Art Complex Lecture Hall and was the first of four guest artists lectures to be hosted by the Art Mentor Program at Santa Monica College. From his humble beginnings in oils & acrylics, an interest in German expressionism and the seascapes of Santa Cruz to the pixilated experiments of today, Mrags is a trailblazer in his own right, and many describe him as a pioneer in new media and virtual art, but Mrags jokingly shuns the title, stating that, "Pioneers tend to be the guys with the arrows stuck in their back."

But joking aside, Mrags maintains humility whilst on the cusp of the future, and keeps to traditional forms: self-portraits, figures and landscapes. This contrast of classical form and the cutting edge never seems to pull Mrags away from his devotion to fine art.

On the contrary, from his initial experimentations upon the Commodore Amiga 500, packed with 512 kb of RAM and a dual floppy drives, to the multitudes of modern Macs at his finger tips today, Mrags maintains his loyalty to tradition while delivering his powerful and straightforward style.

Although devotion to art takes priority in his life, Mrags is more than just an accomplished artist. As an educator in the employ of Otis College of Art and Design, he ushers in the next era of new media artists. With the focus on entertainment design in mind, Mrags teaches Concepts and Issues in New Media, a course in which he introduces students to the popular virtual environment known as Second Life and challenges them to create a world based on set thematic elements.

From avatar creation, to team building, to environment editing exercises, Mrags aims to introduce his students to one of the paths that modern media is following today. His students document their experiences in a journal.

Adhering to his own personal artistic direction and its progression, Mrags has been delving into Second Life universe himself.
Manipulating the avatars that people worldwide create for themselves, Mrags has begun to capture not who people are, but who they wish or believe themselves to be.

This, in contrast to his earlier work, captures the harmony of man and technology, rather than man's harmony with nature.
For those who are interested, Mrags has moved many of his pieces into online galleries in the Second Life universe. These displays can be found on his personal plots of land along with the current projects of his many students.

This venture is for those that have a love of fine art and a taste for the cutting edge. And if you happen upon a dragon-riding Ozzy Ozbourne flying through the air, you've just spotted Mrags himself.

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