Michelle Ott makes illustrations and hand-cut photographs focusing on observations of our physical and social world. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally most recently at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Berkeley Art Museum, and the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Her illustrations have appeared in the New York Times T Magazine online and are featured throughout The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee (2012) and Candy Is Magic (2017) both published by Ten Speed Press. Ott has given visiting artist lectures at both UC Berkeley and Stanford University and has recently taught in the Art Practice department at Berkeley. Michelle is the recipient of several awards including a residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (2013), an exhibition and grant from The Institute for the Future (2014), a travel grant and exhibition at the College Art Association Conference (2015), and the Eisner Prize in Art Practice with a post-graduate fellowship residency from UC Berkeley (2015). For her service over four summer seasons at McMurdo Station in Antarctica Michelle has received the Antarctica Service Medal. She holds a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and an MFA from the University of California, Berkeley. Michelle is currently the Artist in Residence at the Gateway Science Museum in Chico, California.
Paper, Thread. 2015
In 2014 I performed the Postcard Machine (Possibly from the Future) at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts during their Open City/Art City Symposium. I brought 500 postcards, plus enough materials for visitors to make their own postcards envisioning their future cities. After preparing the postcards and materials for the gig, I was left with this lovely pile of scraps. They awaited processing patiently on the studio floor until a frenzied week of weaving and sewing ensued. Bibliography at the time: Waste and Want, A Social History of Trash, Susan Strasser.
Quilted Printed Fabric and thread. 2014
In the spring of 2014 I participated in a Studio Seminar as a part of the Global Urban Humanities Initiative at UC Berkeley. Our Seminar was called No Cruising: Mobile Identities and Urban Life in Los Angeles and we made several trips to LA over the course of the spring. My focus became researching the Minnesota Picnics which were part of a larger series of picnics held by midwestern states-people who identified as Minnesotan, Iowan, etc… but lived in Los Angeles in the 20th Century. My aunt, a Minnesotan currently in her 70s had lived in LA for a year with my grandmother at some point near the end of the 1940’s. Through my interview with her I discovered that they went there for a year to accompany a friend whose daughter was unwell and it was believed that the Southern California climate would help heal her ailments. She never attended a Minnesota picnic but I found several newspaper clippings for the once annual event. At the Long Beach historical society I got to look at their collection of historic photographs from the Iowa Picnics that were traditionally held at Bixby Park. Inspired by images of those mid 20th century pictures I set out to photograph the sites as they stand now, and made picnic blanket quilts based on my photographs. After presenting them in our final seminar, we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the blankets, prompting a guest critic to call them Inhabitable Postcards.
Title illustration for short film by Brandon Loper.
Description from Vimeo: Unwieldy Beast tells the story of Gary Frank Skaggs and his unique piano, which happens to be set atop a three-wheeled bicycle. St. Frankenstein, as it is so aptly named, is a rare combination of bicycle wheels and piano strings and was literally resurrected by Skaggs and given a new life as an unwieldy beast roaming through San Francisco. The film features all original music from Skaggs, as he pedals ever so slowly, in and out of tune, through the streets of San Francisco.
Watch the movie here.
In 2005 I traveled from Portland, Oregon down the west coast to Los Angeles, CA before embarking on my third season in Antarctica. I had with me a set of 100 numbered postcards I had collected or made, which were stamped and addressed to myself, that I then left along the way. Postcards were left in public and private spaces. I received 19 of the postcards, with varied notes. My favorite response the one which outlines “The Five Fallacies about Life”