“I painted this panel called ‘The Key of Willingness,’ and I showed it to some people, and they thought it was really cool,” says Michael Thomas, who goes by his initials, MCT. “So I kept going.”
The painting’s concept, as some may recognize from the title, illustrated his journey into sobriety from alcohol and nicotine addiction. “I’ve been in recovery for about 22 years, and there are things in the literature of recovery that are almost mythological,” he says. “There’s this desperation when you get to the point in your life where you say, ‘I’ll do whatever it takes not to feel this way anymore.’ I had reached that point in my drinking. So the journey of recovery is really a spiritual journey, and I realized it’s not just for addicts — it’s for everybody.”
Thomas says that the taste of validation he received from people early on was enough to propel him forward in the arts. It was a far cry from the childhood trauma he experienced that had possibly blocked his creative side into adulthood. “I’ve been doing a lot of personal development work through my recovery, and I uncovered this wound from childhood,” he recalls. “When I was about five years old, I did a piece of art and showed it to my mom. She said, ‘I hope you never have to make a living as an artist.’ I didn’t think much of it at the time. When I remembered that, I started drawing again to make some amends, and the floodgates just opened.”
Since starting his art in April last year, Thomas says he’s made almost 200 pieces and created a book of 25 art panels that were originally intended to be a graphic novel. “It’s the story of creation,” he says. “It’s kind of a retelling of the human experience. It’s a message of unity.” The narrative expanded into a series of characters who are part of their own universe, similar to Marvel or DC comic book narratives.
Thomas, who added “LoFi” to his MCT moniker to distinguish himself and describe his style, uses mixed media for his art, with a combination of acrylic, spray paint and oil, sometimes on found-object canvases such as pieces of cardboard. One medium he finds particularly interesting is hot glue. “It gives a 3-D effect. I hot-glue, then paint on top of it. My eight-year-old discovered these RainbowDepth™ 3-D glasses. When you put them on and look at my paintings, the colors start levitating off. It’s totally wild,” he says.
Much of Thomas’s work has an urban, street-art feel, which he credits to rebellious energy. “There’s a freedom to it, this cry of ‘I don’t care what you think,’” he explains. But if he had to pinpoint artistic influences, Thomas says he likes works by such artists as Jackson Pollock, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Mark Rothko.
The clothing part of Thomas’s work came into play when the graphic designer working on an animated version of his paintings suggested he make some merchandise to go with it. “He mentioned Shopify, and I was like, ‘What’s that?’” he recalls. “I figured out how to upload my artwork and do their Print-on-Demand. The first one I did looked really cool, and I started showing it to people. They thought it was amazing.”
He decided to create an entire clothing collection that includes shirts, hoodies, pants, leggings, dresses, shoes, bags and accessories. He dubbed his fashion brand Shadow Angels, to reflect the light and dark sides of the human experience.
Thomas is now busy preparing for his first lofi-tickets-690408700007″>gallery art and fashion show at Skylight on Sunday, September 24. “I’m handwriting all the art descriptions, I’m making displays from landscaping pallets, [and] we’ll have mannequins wearing the clothes and live models who will be brand ambassadors talking about the art and the artist,” he says, adding that the goal is to make the show experience interactive. “I want it to be unique. So many times you go to gallery shows and you just stand there and look at the paintings. I want people to have conversations about it.”
Thomas says the inspiration for his art and fashion comes from whatever resonates: “It might be something I hear: family dysfunction, addiction or just expressing an emotion. It’s great for me, because through the creation of a piece, I can process the feeling, and once the piece is done, I have a different relationship with it. It becomes a story open to discussion. It’s a release.”
For now, Thomas says, his art is less about getting validation from others and more about the opportunity to express himself in whatever way that comes along. “It’s all a grand experiment,” he says. “I now let my inner kid do what it wants to do, and that’s play.”
MCT LoFi at SKYLIGHT, 833 Santa Fe Drive, 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday, September 24. Tickets are $10-$40.
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