O n  B i g  D r a w i n g s

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  Michael Paxton

Three Charcoal Lungs #2 (installation view) 

Raw Reckoning, UIMA, 2019,

charcoal on paper, 72”x50” (each)

Concepts and Key Themes

"The opportunity to recall and contemplate how the art of one's early career contributed to one's later oeuvre is not often the subject of extensive series displayed to the public. Often, this is a personal assessment, a quiet review of why one's vision first emerged in its own idiosyncratic manner and how one's artistic practice manifested itself over time. Set additionally around the theme of the development of disease, the long-term lens into one's past takes on additional meaning, as art often mirrors and intermingles with life. Elements of predictability, and foreshadowing are hinted at as the consequences of early choices, as an artist, and ultimately in life are laid bare.

Raw Reckoning poses those questions with equal philosophical and painterly weight. Comprised of large-scale paintings, drawings, and sketchbooks, Paxton delves into a world where he has typically allowed the intuitive to take over, where, in regards to his early interest in drawing, he didn't have to think."


Raw Reckoning
Catalog Essay by
Adrienne Kochman, PhD
Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art


Artist's Bio


Pushing hard against expectations with both knowledge and obsession, an otherness surrounds my work by constantly looking for the exact point where my bone deep Appalachian heritage smashes up against the academics of contemporary art. My most recent work, Pillars of Dust, includes a series of large-scale paintings and smaller works on paper that use slide sections of the effects of black lung on coal miners for their foundation. My well engrained working process allows for an open-ended approach to how each work develops. The overall presence of prepared raw canvas, chalk, charcoal, gesso and acrylic paint is my effort to carve out a place for my heart’s desire to speak of something important, personal and yet as common as dirt.

I am a sixth-generation West Virginian living and working in Chicago. My professional achievements include numerous solo exhibitions in museums and galleries, international fellowships, grants, and a long list of publications and critical support for my work. In addition to being an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College in Chicago since 2005, I have had multiple residencies and visiting artist awards with universities that included workshops and lectures. A documentary film title “Work At Hand” focuses on my unique career and personal history.

Selected One-Person Exhibitions 

2021 (Forthcoming) Evanston Art Center, Evanston, IL
2019 Raw Reckoning, Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, Chicago, IL
2018 Pillars of Dust, Heuser Art Center Gallery, Bradley University, Peoria, IL
2016 Unleashing Instinct: The Drawings of Michael K. Paxton, Linda Matney Gallery, Williamsburg, VA 2012 Riven, Gallery 842, Marshall University, Huntington, WV
2009 Alpestrine, Linda Warren Gallery, Chicago, IL

Selected Collections 

Chicago Federation of Labor, IL
North American Coal Company, Cleveland, OH Media Process Group, Chicago IL
Blaesing Collection, Munster, IN
Kirkland and Ellis, San Francisco, CA
7th District Federal Reserve Bank, Chicago, IL Jensen Metal Products Inc., Racine, WI
Christal DeHaan, Indianapolis, IN
Topin & Associates, Chicago, IL
John and Lucia Hollister Collection, Chicago, IL 


1979 MFA, Drawing and Painting, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 1975 B.A., Art, Marshall University, Huntington, WV