My husband, Bob, and I first met Michael Banks at our local Arts Alive Festival, in Florence, AL. We were mesmerized by his work – the images, both haunting and illuminating. The texture and color took us to the visionary, outsider art work we had grown to love, but the content was more contemporary. Truthfully, we were overwhelmed. Mouths wide open, we made the decision to let his work digest and settle in our bones. Our bones never forgot him.
The following year we made our way to the annual Kentuck Art Festival in Tuscaloosa, AL, with only one artist in mind, Michael Banks. Enthusiastic about reconnecting with his work, we were up and down all the aisles to Chris Columbus, Mary Proctor, and Jimmy Sudduth, until we made our way to Michael. There with his sister, his stint at the festival almost completed, he greeted us as old friends. Our piece was waiting for us, one I felt must have reflected so much of the fabric of Michael’s life. We walked out of the festival carrying this massive piece with grins on our faces. We patiently waited for the framing, which would allow “the boyz,” (as I named them), to take their rightful place in our gathering room.
Two years later, I met Michael again at Arts Alive. I was tearful, as I told him about Bob’s transition. Michael’s work was the last art we purchased together. Michael hugged me. as I received the Banks Flowers, which now graces my living room wall — a tribute to Bob. “Vicki… your husband was my favorite.”
You may discover Banks at a local art festival, and his work has been exhibited throughout the South and in New York, and Denver. He has also been featured by local magazines, and a piece of his work graces a wall in Better Homes and Gardens. He hails from North Alabama:
“Michael Banks was born in 1972 and was raised by his mother in a housing project in north Alabama. He graduated from high school and was a star athlete. As a child Michael loved to draw and paint and create from whatever materials he could find. His mother encouraged him and he continued to create until November 1992, when his mother died. In his grief, Michael’s desire for making art left him. He fell into a great depression and stopped painting.
For five years Michael’s life took many different turns during his struggle with depression and alcohol addiction. Finally, in 1997, he recalled the hope and encouragement that his mother had given him and he began to paint again. Since then he has experimented with various techniques combining both found objects, building materials as well as artists’ materials. He developed a style using roofing tar as an undercoating on wood with artist’s paint incising subtle nuances.” Marcia Weber Art Objects
Banks is now creating wooden sculptures, which in Banks fashion, are compelling.
Michael Banks’ work continues to evolve, and like most Outsider Art, his work continues to be visionary. Jeanine Taylor Folk Art asserts, “Michael says that he paints because it keeps him alive, he must paint in order to survive.”