Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mr. Atomic: Explosive Art

Art by Mr. Atomic owned and photographed by
my granddaughter: wide-eyed innocent-looking-
but-not boys, and below, a somber  Edgar Allan Poe,
the 19th-century Gothic poet and mystery writer.  

We were walking out of the Toledo Museum of Art, one of my favorite places, and I asked my grand- daughter Julia if she had a favorite artist. Philip was skipping ahead of us looking at the sculpture.  "I like Matisse and some of that kind of art, and I love photography," she said," but one of my favorites is the art work of Mr. Atomic. That kind of art."  That was the first I had heard of Mr. Atomic.

The next time I heard of Mr. Atomic was at an art fair on Main Street in Sylvania. I had  moved here after ten years in Florida and two years in Ukraine with the Peace Corps. Julia  took me to the Mr. Atomic exhibit.  Wow. The art was large, colorful and bold; some of  it was wry. some a bit on the dark side.   Philip liked the big action figures. The art drew them in.  It's certainly explosive.

I learned from chatting with the artists that day that “Mr Atomic” is two people, identical twins Michael and Mark Kersey.  They are well-known in the Toledo area and across the country. It's great fun to talk with them about their art, which is a combination of two people who look alike but have very different personalities.  They share a common past, and a common destiny it seems: love of comics and science fiction, graduation from Start High School and  UT, lessons at the Toledo Art Museum from an early age, and an urge to tell stories.  They paint bold, larger-than-life, often surreal canvases that pop.

Their art is, I've learned, in the “Pop Surrealism” tradition that goes back to California in the 1970s ("Mr Atomic,” Holy Toledo Magazine, Winter 2013). The tradition is associated with a counter-cultural scene-- punk, hotrod, and surreal--but at bottom the "Mr. Atomic" artists are just nice guys with great talent, devout Christians with a strong sense of sarcasm, humor, and mortality, and a little bit of the macrabre thrown in. They say that their art is getting better as they get older, that they are painting for the ages, for posterity.  Mr. Atomic won't go off into the neon red sunset without a blast, that's for sure.  

Julie likes Poe's The Raven. 
A lowercase “T” Atomic is Mark’s signature, and a capital “T” Atomic is Michael’s. Mr. Atomic Studio Gallery is on 1700 N. Reynolds Road at the Common Space. Their website is
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