By Crystal Harrell
Inspiration takes different forms as ideas blossom in the mind of an artist. Images of fancy, flattery, or the frustrations of emotional battles fought—all captured on canvas for others to view as an intimate projection of the soul. Michele Fine Art in Downtown Palm Springs is shining the spotlight on local artists—all with varying styles—to bare their souls as featured residents of the gallery.
Owner Michele Ohanesian-Smith has worked in galleries for about 20 years, holding duties of art gallery management and as an art consultant. Born and raised in the Coachella Valley, Michele has a history of selling other people’s art, and built her career with that. About nine years ago, she went full time as an artist, teaching and selling her own work.
“COVID hit my business pretty hard, so I took some time out from that and then as I was starting back up again, I thought, I need to really have more visibility. Finding a gallery to show my work wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I thought, I can open a gallery, I can do this. So it’s kind of combining all of my experience into one thing,” shared Michele.
Michele is one of the three artists featured in the gallery, with her work featuring oil on canvas, as well as portraits that are very realistic, but contemporary. Color and emotion are the two driving sources in her art.
The gallery held its soft opening in December, but attendance was impacted by the Palm Springs Light Parade that was scheduled that same night. Michele Fine Art will have its official grand opening this February, with live music, cocktails, refreshments, and hors d’oeuvres, for the public to enjoy, along with the art on display.
“I want to bring up artists that have so much skill, but I haven’t had a chance before. Two of the artists that I carry are significant artists and they’re known in their own areas, but I’m trying to bring them up out here. I want to bring up the lesser-known artist,” stated Michele.
Another resident artist to the gallery, MIKULAK, captures portrait works as well, but in his perspective, they are figments of his imagination. His popular visual style can be described as surreal with a street art graffiti feel. While MIKULAK acknowledges that his art is not traditional oil and canvas still life portraits, he feels that his edgier style gives more of an opportunity in sales—as all resident artists have something different featured in the gallery.
“Obviously, if we’re going to try to make a living through our art, we’re being mindful of home decor and things that would be appropriate to hang on walls inside of a home. Some artists just like to create to create, and they get a following regardless of what they’re creating. And hopefully one day I’ll be there. But at this point in my career, I’m still mindful of giving our community what I feel they’d be interested in,” revealed MIKULAK.
MIKULAK has taken a drastic shift in direction during his artistic evolution in the last few years. From moving from Palm Springs and going off grid in the Joshua Tree, to retreating from art for a time after being emotionally hurt from those close to him, MIKULAK feels all those roller coaster experiences have helped him grow in his career—and his art has benefited from the change in scenery as well.
“I’m very mindful of my integrity and how I act and how I walk, not just how I talk. As I go through all my days, it kind of put me into a depression and it was hurtful. I didn’t know who I could trust. I lost opportunities, so I moved off the desert floor and I came to the upper desert and made a home in Joshua Tree. Things were completely different. It made me feel the same energy as when I first started off as an artist in Palm Springs, because I was homeless, and I was trying to kick off my career–trying to make my basic necessities. It was rough, but it kept me focused and it kept me diligent,” said MIKULAK.
MIKULAK’s advice to other creatives wanting to pursue art involves self-preservation and being authentic to yourself and the environment you feel most comfortable in.
“Always keep your guard up and be mindful of your surroundings. Emotions can take people to crazy places and take them off of their center. And that’s the worst thing that can happen to an artist is to be knocked off your center. When those juices are flowing, the vibe and the frequencies are at its peak, and it’s like a drug. It’s probably why most artists just stay in their studios and just create, because it’s safe here. You don’t have to worry about people knocking you off your center. But for me, I love doing live performance art and I love interacting with the community…”
“Somebody once gave me a really great compliment and said, ‘you’re the best artist in the Coachella Valley.’ And they said it’s not because of your work and the visual appearance of it. It’s because whatever is going on in the community, you find a reason to be there. All artists want to achieve success, and the best way to achieve success is to focus on your own work. Don’t try following another artist’s style. Do something new, and eventually, if it’s good, people will gravitate towards it,” expressed MIKULAK.
Michele Fine Art is located 314 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92262.