Michael C. Spafford: Hercules and Other Greek Legends

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Artist Michael C. Spafford's bold graphics explore ancient myths

SALEM, Ore. — Michael C. Spafford is a well noted Seattle painter, printmaker and professor emeritus from the University of Washington who focuses on Greek mythology in his work. An exhibition of Spafford’s woodcuts entitled "Michael C. Spafford: Hercules and Other Greek Legends" will open Feb. 23 and continue through April 28, 2013, in the Study Gallery and Print Study Center at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University. 

Organized by Hallie Ford Museum of Art Faculty Curator and Art History Professor Ann M. Nicgorski, the exhibition features a range of woodcut prints created by the artist during the past 30 years and includes his 12 Labors of Hercules, as well as other popular Greek legends and myths. 

Since the early 1960s, Spafford’s artistic themes have focused on Greek and Roman mythology. Strength, conflict, force, and domination are just a few of the provocative issues that are explored throughout Spafford’s art. Using the diptych and triptych format, Spafford simplifies his work to its bare essentials: space is compressed to two dimensions, and figures and forms are stripped away of any unessential elements so that they often appear as abstract shapes on the picture plane. Moreover, color is often limited to black and white to emphasize the narrative elements of the theme.

Nicgorski says, “The figures of Greek mythology become a timeless vehicle in Spafford’s art for his exploration of human relationships and spiritual values in the contemporary world.”

Born in Palm Springs, California and raised in southern California, Spafford received his B.A. degree from Pomona College in 1959 and his M.A. degree from Harvard University in 1960, where he studied the history of Renaissance art. Although he was invited back to Harvard to start work on his Ph.D., he realized he would not be happy as an art historian and instead, decided to pursue a career as a painter.

Discussion with artist Michael C. Spafford
As a special feature, Spafford will give a talk entitled "PINGO ERGO SUM: A Conversation with Painter and Printmaker Michael C. Spafford," on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. in the Roger Hull Lecture Hall at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Spafford will speak about his career and his artwork, with a focus on his engagement with the themes of Greek mythology. Spafford will then respond to questions prepared by students in Professor Nicgorski's class on Greek Mythology in the Visual Arts and to other questions from the audience. This discussion is co-sponsored by the Center for Ancient Studies and Archaeology at Willamette University and the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Additional support is provided by the Verda Karen McCracken Young Art Exhibition Fund of the Department of Art History at Willamette University. Admission to the conversation is free.

Support for this exhibition has been provided in part by grants from the Center for Ancient Studies and Archaeology at Willamette University, the City of Salem’s Transient Occupancy Tax funds and the Oregon Arts Commission. 

About the Hallie Ford Museum of Art

The Hallie Ford Museum of Art is located at 700 State St. in Salem. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. The galleries are closed on Monday. General admission is $3 and $2 for seniors and students. Children younger than 12 are admitted free and admission is free on Tuesdays.

For more information call 503-370-6855 or visit willamette.edu/arts/hfma.

High Resolution Photos for Media

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The following images posted on this page are for publicity purposes only, intended for use by journalists in media-related publications. Use of any image must be accompanied by its credit line. Use of these images by any other parties or for any other purposes, private or commercial, is strictly prohibited unless the express written consent is obtained directly from Hallie Ford Museum of Art. For information regarding educational, personal and commercial use of images, please visit our Copyrights & Reproductions page.

For assistance contact Andrea Foust 503-370-6867 or at afoust@willamette.edu.

II. Lernean Hydra
 
Michael C. Spafford, II. Hercules Slaying the Lernean Hydra, from the 12 Labors of Hercules (28-642p/v-ap II), 2010, woodcut, courtesy of the artist and Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle, Washington
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This nine-headed serpent ravaged the region of Lerna.  When Hercules cut off one of its heads, two more would grow in its place.  His nephew, Iolaus, helped by cauterizing the necks, and Hercules finally defeated the monster, burying its last immortal head under a rock.  Hercules then made his arrows lethal by dipping them in the creature’s poisoned gall.


V. Augeias Stable

Michael C. Spafford, V. Hercules Cleaning the Stables of Augeias, from the 12 Labors of Hercules (28-642p/v-ap V),  2010, woodcut, courtesy of the artist and Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle, Washington
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These foul stables, home to 3,000 oxen, had not been cleaned in 30 years.  Hercules performed the task in one day by diverting two rivers to wash out the filth.


VII. Mad Bull of Crete

Michael C. Spafford, VII. Hercules Subduing the Mad Bull of Crete, from the 12 Labors of Hercules (28-642p/v-ap VII), 2010, woodcut, courtesy of the artist and Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle, Washington
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This ferocious bull, belonging to King Minos of Crete, was wrecking havoc on crops and orchards.  Hercules captured the bull and transported it across the sea to King Eurystheus. 


X. Cattle of Geryon

Michael C. Spafford, X. Hercules Captrues the Cattle of Geryon, from the 12 Labors of Hercules (28-642p/v-ap X), 2010, woodcut, courtesy of the artist and Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle, Washington
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Geryon was a monstrous three-bodied warrior in the far west.  Hercules was sent to capture his cattle, guarded by a herdsman and a two-headed dog.  After an arduous journey, Hercules slew them all and drove the herd back to King Eurystheus.


Michael C. Spafford 
Spike Mafford, Michael C. Spafford, photograph, year [photo courtesy of Spike Mafford]
  

Interview Opportunities

Interview opportunities with artist Michael Spafford may be available upon request. 

Hallie Ford Museum of Art Faculty Curator and Art History Professor Ann M. Nicgorski has organized this exhibition and is also available for interviews. Professor Nicgorski is an expert in Greek and Roman Art History and one of three Classical Studies faculty with extensive experience as a field archaeologist at Willamette University. 
More information

To arrange for an interview, contact Andrea Foust 503-370-6867 or at afoust@willamette.edu.

Artist Biography