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Mike Shaffer

Resumé/CV - Two

Crosroads 2.jpeg

Crossroads Gallery, Alexandria, VA, 2015



2021      Frederick County Arts Council, Frederick, MD

2020      Allegany County Arts Council, Cumberland, MD

2017      American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center,

              Washington, DC

2016      Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, DC

2015      Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, Washington, DC

2014      Lowe Enterprises, Inc., Arlington, VA

2014      Otsuka Pharmaceutical Development, Inc., Princeton, NJ

2010.     University of Maryland University College, Largo, MD

2009      Service Members Legal Defense Network, Washington, DC

2008      Whitman-Walker Clinic, Clarksburg, MD

2008      Iona Senior Services, Washington, DC


2008      Urbana Regional Library, Urbana, MD


2012      U.S. District Court District of Maryland, Greenbelt, MD

2008      Mayorga Coffee Roasters, Clarksburg, MD


2002      Atlas Performing Arts Center, Washington, DC

2002      Hyattstown Mill Arts Project, Hyattstown, MD


2003      House of Humor and Satire, Gobrovo, Bulgaria


2003      BlackRock Center for the Arts, Germantown, MD


2002      University of Maryland Foundation, College Park, MD


2003      University of Maryland Global Campus, College Park, MD

2001      Butler School, Darnestown, MD


1990      Montgomery County Government, Silver Spring, MD

1985      Butler School, Darnestown, MD 

1979      Jack Rasmussen Gallery, Washington, DC

1977      Washington Project for the Arts, Washington, DC

1974      Sidwell Friends School, Washington, DC

1968      Hammer, Siler, George, Associates, Silver Sprig, MD 


1966      Community Realty, Beltsville, MD  


1965      Carl M. Freeman Companies, Olney, MD



2022    "Abstract "Intersections' " - The Frederick News Post, April 2021, Double-page spread, "                       pages 6-7, with two large photos and two small photos

2021    "Abstract "Intersections' " - The Frederick News Post, April 2021, Double-page spread, "                       pages 6-7, with two large photos and two small photos

2020    University of Maryland Global Campus, “4th Biennial Maryland Regional Juried 

           Art Exhibition,”   80-page Color Catalog, One-page with large photo and text

2019    Mike Shaffer Studios, "Mike Shaffer Millennial Drawings," by Mike Shaffer, a 122-page

            book comprised of an introduction and images of over 100 original

           drawings on paper done during the early 2000s, published by Pretell Publishing


2017    American University Museum at the Katzen Center, “Mike Shaffer Towers and 

            Monuments,” Large (12 x 6.5 inches) 6-panel Color Brochure with 6 photos and Essay 

            by Bobby Donovan


2016    University of Maryland University College, “3rd Biennial Maryland Regional Juried 

            Art Exhibition,”   72-page Catalog, One-page with large photo and text

2016     Montgomery College King Street Gallery, "Landmarks", Two Quarter-page photos with text

2016.   Sandy Spring Museum, Exhibition Catalog, "Artina 2016," Two half-page images with text

2016    Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center and Washington Sculptors Group,"Carte  

            Blanches,"  Two small color photos with text

2015.   Salzland Museum Exhibition Catalog, "Micro-monuments", Two color photos with text in

            English and German

2015    Greater Reston Arts Center, Exhibition Catalog, "Ephemeral," Full-page photo with text

2014    University of Maryland University College, “2nd Biennial Maryland Regional Juried 

            Art Exhibition,”   62-page Catalog, One-page with large photo and text

2014.    American University Museum College of Arts & Sciences, Exhibition Catalog, "Sculpture  

             Now 2014," Large One-third page photo and half-page text and "Welcome" by

             Mike Shaffer, President of the Washington Sculptors Group at the time

2012    U.S. District Court of Maryland, Beltsville, MD, “Mike Shaffer, Time and Time Again,” 

            One page Exhibition Notes by Bobby Donovan 

2012    Brentwood Arts Exchange, "Exhibition Catalog, "Agendas," One page with two color images

            of works from the Tables Series 


2010    Greater Reston Arts Center, “Gaps” Exhibition Catalog, including Mike Shaffer, brief text 

            with two large full-page photos

2008     Washington Project for the Arts and Washington Sculptors Group, "Aquifer."

             ExhibitCatalog, Half-page color Photo with text


2006    Glenview Mansion Gallery, Rockville, MD, “Mike Shaffer Identity Crisis, Works  from the

            Portrait Series,” a 4-page color brochure/catalog with 12 photos and text by Mike Shaffer


2003    BlackRock Center for the Arts, “Mike Shaffer Line Paintings,” a 26-page color catalog with

            an introduction by Marilyn Balcombe and text, photos and transcript of interview with Artist 

            Critic and Curator, Joe Shannon


1998    University of Maryland Student Union Exhibition, Two-page Exhibition Notes about the 

            show consisting of two poems: “Space Place” and “Weeds all Around”


1998    University of Maryland Student Union, One-page Exhibition Notes Titled “Heater Coolers

            1 2 3,”  Related to works in the show


1998    University of Maryland Student Union, Six-panel Brochure with essay by Houston P. Hill

            to Accompany the Exhibition “Objects Found and Going Around.” 

1997    Rockville Arts Place, Exhibition Notes, “Abject Objects,” Text, One-page

1997    Mansion Gallery, Rockville, MD, “Mike Shaffer Log Cabin Concepts,” a 4-panel

            brochure/catalog with Essay by Kathleen Moran

1996    Rockville Art in Public Places, “1996 Sculpture on the Grounds,” 

            One-page of  a 6-page catalogue


1995    Mike Shaffer Studios, Exhibition Notes, “Mike Shaffer’s Grids and Lattices and 

            Line Series Descriptions”, Two-page Exhibition Notes


1994    University of Maryland University College large-scale Installation, “Lucy In The Sky,”

            Postcard with text and color photo

1994    Artist's Statement, "Sculpture at Quiet Waters Park," Exhibition Catalog, Maryland 

            Hall for the Creative Arts. and Quiet Waters Park, Annapolis, MD, Sept 1   

1992    Galleries Magazine December Issue,  Half-page Advertisement "Mike Shaffer Works

            from the Tables Series," Photo with text

1992     Galleries Magazine September Issue,  Half-page Advertisement "Mike Shaffer Large-scale

             installations," Photo with text


1992.     Montpelier Cultural Art Center, "Mike Shaffer, The Tactile Show," By Richard Zandler,

              Laural, MD. June 5     


1991     Montgomery College Exhibition, “Mike Shaffer, Suzy Q I Love You,” Post Card with text

             and color photo

1990     The Government of Montgomery County Maryland, “Certificate of Recognition 

             and Appreciation,” for Sculpture Homage To An Era, Created for the County, 

             Presented by Sidney Kramer, County Executive 

1990     Montgomery College, International Sculpture Conference Exhibition,  Postcard with

             brief text and color photo

1989     Mike Shaffer Studios as Data Gallery “ ‘Longfellow Serenade’ from the Tables Series,” 

             Full-page Advertisement in Sculpture Magazine 

1989     Maryland State Arts Council’s Visual Arts Touring Program, Strathmore Hall Arts Center

             “Books and Bookends: Sculptural Approaches,” a medium format 75-page book, One-page

             photo with text,  Author/Curators: Carol Barton and Henry Barrow

1988     New Art Examiner, Mike Shaffer,  "One Quarter-page Advertisement," with Photo of a

             Sculpture from  the Towers Series and 5 lines of text

1987     New Art Examiner, "Mike Shaffer Expansion Works Series," Half-page Advertisement" 

             with one quarter-page photo and 10 lines of text


1987     Mike Shaffer Studios, “Mike Shaffer Grids and Lattices,”  Six-panel Brochure with eight

             color photos and text

1987     Mike Shaffer Studios, “Mike Shaffer Accessory Works” (subsequently called 

             Ancillary Studies) Six-panel Brochure with six color photos and text

1983     The Washington Post Style Section, "Sometime Sculpture,'" By Mike Shaffer, 

             February 1, Five-inch photo with 33 column inches of text

1982     Baltimore Artscape ‘82 Exhibition, “Congratulatory Letter of Accomplishment” for being

             as a prize winner Presented by Mayor William Donald Schaefer

1978     Exhibition Catalog, "The 1978 Maryland Biennial Exhibition," One half-page image with text

1978     Baltimore Museum of Art, Academy of the Arts Fifteenth Annual Juried Show, 


1977     University of Maryland University College, “Mike Shaffer, Lines, Order, Objects, Chaos,”

             a six-panel brochure/catalog with Essay By Bobby Donovan


1974     Mike Shaffer Studios, “The Grape Group Color Tubes,” Two-panel Brochure

             with two color photos and text

1969     National Compendium of Multifamily Housing, "Contracting for Works of Art," by Mike                            Shaffer, National Association of Home Builders, Washington, DC, February Issue


2022    Award: Recipient of NEA Grant, National Endowment for the Arts, through Frederick                             Arts CouncilFrederick, MD

2017    Contractor and Supervisor for three-week Project to secure Materials and Equipment and

            with a Staff of Six Artists Paint an Elaborate and Complex Alter and Stage in a Hindu                             Shrine, SBA Temple, Ijamsville, MD

2014    Tom Rooney Award for Excellence in Sculpture, Washington Sculptors Group, American

            University Katzen Arts Center, Selected by Jack Rasmussen, Director, Washington, DC

2013    Panel Member, "Sculpture Today and Tomorrow," Driskell Center for the Study

            of Art  and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora, University of Maryland

2013    Co-instructor, "Art Classes for Executives," Leadership Greater Washington,

            Washington, DC, (Also for the years: 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008)

2012    Member, Planning Committee, DC Arts and Humanities Council, Washington, DC

2011     Guest Juror, BlackRock, Center for the arts, Germantown, MD

2010    Panel Member,  "The Gallery Outside, Acquisition or Exhibition," Washington Sculptors                         Group, Initiative for Public Art, Reston and Greater Reston Art Center, Washington, 

            with Dale Lazone, International Public Art Marlborough, Reston, Va

2009    President, Washington Sculptors Group, Washington, DC, 2009 through 2014

2006   Stipend, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD

2000    President, Hyattstown Mill Arts Project, Hyattstown, Maryland, 2000 and Continuing 

1989    Commission Award, Large Sculpture for Germantown Rail Station,

            Montgomery County, Rockville, MD


1983    J&B Winner’s Circle Award, The Paddington Corp, New York, NY


1982    Jury Award, Artscape-82, Baltimore City and Maryland Institute College of Art,

            Baltimore, MD


1978    Barton Gillet Company Award, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD


1971    Photo of Sculpture for Cover of “Chemistry” (magazine), American Chemical Society,

            Washington, DC


1969    Robert G. Marrick Award Foundation Award, Baltimore Museum of Art,Baltimore, MD


1966    Pop Art Prize, Colortone Press Exhibition, Universal North Gallery, Washington, DC


1965    Commission Award, Carl Freeman Associates Americana Art Competition, Inc. Potomac, MD


1965    Third Prize, DC Art Fair, DC Recreation Dept., The Washington Post and National Park

            Service, Washington, DC


1963    Second Place Award, University Art Dept. Exhibition, Southern Illinois University,

            Carbondale, IL


Mike Shaffer operates out of his studio near Washington, DC where he is active in the arts community. A skilled craftsman and designer, he received a B.S. degree in science and engineering from the University of Maryland and an M.S. in Biochemistry from Southern Illinois University before touring a dozen or so major museums and art centers across the U.S. He later completed additional courses in environmental art and sculpture at Maryland Institute College of Art.


Shaffer has exhibited in over 200 formal group exhibitions in his long career in addition to twenty-four solo exhibitions and received over a dozen awards and honors for his artistic accomplishments. His work is held in twenty collections including the Museum of Humor and Satire in Gobrovo, Bulgaria, the Salzland Museum in Schonebeck Germany and in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Shaffer’s work has been documented in over forty publications such as exhibition brochures, essays, catalogs and other descriptive literature including references in over a dozen issues of the Washington Post. Mike served as president of two nonprofit arts organizations: the Washington Sculptors Group from 2009 to 2016 and continuing from 2000, the Hyattstown Mill Arts Project, a nonprofit organization in Montgomery County Maryland.


In the 1970s Shaffer produced welded metal sculptures and interior design accessories and marketed them through retail design and furnishings outlets in Washington, DC and New York. Drawn later to Abstract Conceptualism, Shaffer has designed and produced a wide variety of works including drawings, videos, digital works on paper, environmental works and small to medium size works for interior settings as well as large-scale paintings, sculptures and outdoor installations. His recent work is based on the theoretical nature of intersections formed with––in two dimensions––lines and––in three dimensions––objects and materials characterized by length together with historical configurations associated with log cabins. A talented writer and poet, he is the author of a 122-page book about his figurative work.


                                             #      #       # 

MIKE SHAFFER   2 + 2 = 5

June 2003


 University of Maryland University College, 

3501 University Boulevard East

Adelphi, MD




The Exhibition Brochure was published by the Office of Special Programs in the University of Maryland University College Office of the President. The exhibition was made possible in part by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Shaffer describes his 40 years of drawing, painting, and object making as "a long beginning." He is a rogue talent, having arrived at art not through the typical venues of art school or artist role models. Instead, his interest in artistic expression emerged from his college studies in chemistry and the life sciences. Always curious and analytical by nature, Shaffer initiated a self-study of aesthetics when scientific answers, however accurate, remained incomplete.


Mike Shaffer was born and raised in western Maryland. His father, a textile plant mechanic, taught him the use of tools. More significantly, he learned from his father "a reverence for materials and respect for methods and mechanics."


By the early 1960s, while he still did not consider himself an artist, the understanding of structures and their underlying principles of design had become a fixed idea for Shaffer. To this end he began and intensive investigation of architecture, particularly the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. (Years later, he would produce more than 150 small sculptures exploring variations on the theme of the gabled house). Also at this time, Shaffer introduced himself to modern art by decoding the visual enigmas of the then-acknowledged contemporary masters. The incendiary cocktails of Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko's somber harmonics, and Barnett Newman's detached austerity have since informed Shaffer's creative sensibilities.

The influence of any given style, or the borrowing of a formal vocabulary, was not a critical priority for the young artist at that time. Instead, what Shaffer eventually came to recognize in the expressions of his immediate predecessors was the importance of the process and the meaningfulness of the purpose. Through their accomplishments he was able to appreciate art-making as more than a craft. He discovered its lofty aspirations, its infinite possibilities, and its struggle for perfection. In short, he came to believe in the validity of art and the hard work of creativity.


If the abstract expressions of the '50s taught Shaffer to suffer the work, then surely the pop artists of the '60s reminded him to play. And he plays with a quirky gamesmanship. He has developed an idiosyncratic pop-formalist style. Hidden beneath the detached facades of his rigid structures, obscured among the hypnotic repetition of lines and patterns, innate in the odd notions and found objects proudly displayed in his studio, there is play. It is refreshingly indulgent childlike play, with all the freedom and jest the word implies.


To make his art. Shaffer employs a strategy of systematic sabotage. He is a crafty inventor, predisposed to sneaky gadgets and trap doors. His instrument of choice is the intersecting line at approximate right angles to form the omnipresent grid. A signature element in his work since the early '70s, the grid provides stability. It serves as launch pad and ground control for all things untidy and unteathered. Moreover, the grid apes the geometry of the canvas itself and, in doing so, reinforces the prime directive of modern expression: that within these parameters is space dedicated to the original and the unexpected.


Shaffer is hardly the romantic. While his towers, particularly the somber ones, can at times evoke the revelry of the lonely sentinel, and his delicately structured houses, in their simplicity, may conjure some kind of a contemplative drift, we must not be fooled. Shaffer prefers to make art rather than to cast spells. He is too much a product of our hectic, kinetic world to trust in soulful implications. Industrious and pragmatic, he is a get-it-done sort, commandeering the universal tools of language, color, mass, and repetition to make his statements. His faith resides solely in the creative act itself. Our enjoyment of his work is derived from his own contagious delight in materials and methods.




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January 28 - March 12, 2017


American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center

4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. 

Washington, DC 20016






To appreciate the peculiar, the offbeat, the incongruous, is to appreciate the art of Mike Shaffer. Identifying himself as "Sculptor, Painter, Conceptual Artist, Writer, Poet Maker of all Sorts of Things," Shaffer has shape-shifted his way through multiple methodologies and materials since the early 1970s. The countless paintings, drawings, sculptures, and digital media he has produced along the way resist facile expectations. Most do not represent one style exclusively. Instead, they are an amalgamation of contrary styles. He is an artist who gladly borrows many modernist conventions but seldom whole-heartedly adopts the prerequisite mannerisms of any one artistic moment. Abstract Expressionism, New Dada, Pop, Minimalism, and Conceptual: Shaffer's art touches all of these while never becoming fatally infected by any. They are expressions on the use if stylistic recognition and thus we are denied the full comfort of the familiar. In its place, Shaffer gives us the perplexing comfort of the almost-familiar, the not quite identifiable, the curious.


Like so many artists, Shaffer is a forager, an incurable hoarder of raw materials, stylistic expressions and intellectual fodder. He is the electric rummager who willingly plucks theory from the culture pile as readily as he pulls old wood from the dumpster. He is a collector of raw material because raw materials are needed to physically make art. He is a collector of ideas because, for Shaffer, art-making is ultimately a cerebral process, not a physical one. In summarizing his work the artist states: "My work is about ideas rather than things but I use things to explain what it is I am interested in." For Shaffer, the true joy and creative responsibility of the artist is gathering, honing, and rethinking the cultural consensus of what art is or could be. And so he gathers.


Shaffer collects with purpose. His curiosity is wide-ranging but within that broad scope he is discriminate and deliberate. His forty-five year exploration of art has not been a meandering journey of unrelated and careless pursuits. Shaffer's undergraduate and graduate degrees include studies in chemistry, mathematics, biochemistry and physiology. His education and early career in research science have been instrumental to his art. As an artist, he applies the same rigorous empirical study techniques used within the scientific 

community to develop his artistic expression. For Shaffer, art has been, and will forever remain, an investigative tool.  


Since the beginning of his career, and through the decades that followed, Shaffer has directed his investigations and his accumulated resources toward very specific areas of interest. His innate interest in the beauty of simplicity, in rational order, in logic sequences, and in things pared down to their essentials, led him to Minimalism. Conversely, his joy in bright color, his delight in humor, in the kitsch of mass culture, in child's play, brought him to Pop Art. His interest in architecture and the aesthetics of spacial relationships, directed him toward site specify installations and environmental art. And, Shaffer's ultimate fascination for "the whole art picture—the theoretical and philosophical concepts that question what art is and what it is all about" made Conceptual Art, the art of thinking about art, an inevitable pursuit.


All of these investigations have informed the artist, allowing him to mix and match styles and theoretical approaches to suit his purposes. Style (or in Shaffer's case, an inventive combination of styles) is essentially a domicile. It is the house in which he lives. But what about the artist inside the house? What is it that motivates him or her to get up in the morning to make art? Shaffer has his own wellspring of constant inspiration. It is the beauty of interesting grid forms.


The crisscrossing effect of linear elements has been a career-long fascination for the artist and while he has made many excursions into other expressions, he has continually returned to the study of all manner of grid-like forms. For Shaffer, there is an inarguable beauty in the simple truthfulness of intersecting lines and linear objects to  which he relentlessly returns. 


This exhibition presents artworks into which Shaffer has incorporated his grid patterning and perpendicular stacking techniques beginning in the early 1970s to the present day and it illustrates his predilection to organize his work into specific series according to his interests as he drifts in and out of heightened attractions to fairly strict self-prescribed parameters. He has catalogued over two dozen such thematically based series. Among them are ubiquitous grid forms he has culled from four series: the Color Tubes, Log Cabins, Towers and Monuments and the Fabric Works.


The sculpture made of styrofoam cups called Great White Way is a fragile statement that typifies the simple strength of Shaffer's object-making. Much like sculptors Carl Andre or Sol Lewitt, Shaffer gathers raw materials, not to hew or assemble them into new jaw-dropping designs but to assemble them with a minimum of invasive altering into new arrangements of communal order. His purpose he says is to build works with materials that have length into an organized structure based not on the shapes of the components but instead based on how the individual parts are arranged. Most of the order characteristic of the grid-based towers and other upright structures that infuse much of Shaffer's work is achieved through repetition of like forms that create a sense of consistency, clarity and cohesiveness. Since we can see the individual parts and see their relationship to the larger whole, we trust the expression. We understand how it is made. There is psychological comfort in knowing an object will not surprise use, that it is stable and holds no secrets. 


This idea of transparent construction is very important to shaffer's expression. The upright criss-crossing structures of the Towers and Monuments Series all offer up varying degrees of visible construction strategies. Shaffer refers to this easily seen course of action by referring to a works "porosity" - a term intended to describe a works "openness." He enjoys experimenting with the "density of the thicket," he says, by placing the individual components far enough apart so that the work does not appear to viewers to be too solid thus diminishing the power of the silhouetted form.


Shaffer's porosity concept describes the ebb and flow of space as it goes around and through his works. In his two-dimensional art, this ebb and flow is an artificial construct for the sake of special reference. But, in his three dimensional sculpture, the ebb and flow is actually space. Shaffer's objects are solid but they are not barricades; porosity invites us in. The fact that a bird can fly through, hover around or land on High Water House invokes notions about the possibility that thoughts and memories might do the same suggesting an attractiveness and welcome charm to our subconscious state of mind. Like many forms of art, the two- and three-dimensional grid-based towers, large and small, are undoubtedly capable of bringing viewers to reflective states of being and as such are repositories for pleasurable contemplations. 


The notion that artworks can absorb and hold psychic energy is ancient. Our churches and all the sacred objects they contain sustain this belief. Vesela Sretenovic, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art for the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, equates Shaffer's towers to Buddhist temples. While they may lack the fanciful embellishments of worshipful locations, Shaffer's work most assuredly evokes Buddhist detachment. Central to Zen Buddhist teachings is the practice of simple repetitive acts that induce tranquil mindfulness. For Shaffer, there is pleasure in the repetitive act. The is pleasure in the certainty of the result that practiced repetition ensures. And the pleasure often communicates to the viewer. Indeed, in the work that Shaffer has embellished with such logical formulaic conclusions, we feel this pleasure as well as a soulful sense of  inscrutable beauty.


Severe petitioners of a prescribed approach to art-making, like Ellsworth Kelly and Donald Judd sought irrefutable perfection in their work by placing a lot of trust in their craftsmanship and in the inherent beauty of methodical consistency. These works, planned and produced with such mindful rigor, are nearly flawless. They are also, at times, dangerously close to sterile. Shaffer is rightfully distrustful of absolute consistency and inevitable conclusions. He will often abruptly break his formula to reaffirm his creative impulses. We see this in his paintings Dark Garden and Rags To Riches I I from the Fabric Works Series, where a systematic matrix nearly completed has been abruptly halted, thereby sabotaging expectations and leaving us with a surprise dialogue between the near complete and its remainder. 


Shaffer has always worked in series producing large bodies of work sharing thematic characteristics. In all, he has worked in over two dozen areas of investigational interest, many of them leading to new groups usually with blended properties of the new and their predecessors.  Shaffer started with painted grids because of his attraction to systematic right-angular repetitions. His painted grids became actual lattice structures because of his fascination with the simple linearity of his objects of length. By shifting the crisscrossing design features from two dimensions as when we see them against the wall, and then laying them atop one another it is easy to see how the process led to structures that rise up to form all kinds of towers. But, to add gravitas to the process, Shaffer needed additional validations.


"To me," Shaffer explains, "there is something profoundly fundamental about the linearity of pipes, boards and other objects of length in the same way there its something fundamental about the right-angular manner in which tree trunks are laid down and staked up to make log cabins as well as the subsequent architectural complexities of the world's modern designs and forms."


The towers, in turn, evolved because Shaffer sought intent for the work. He wanted his structures to be more than formal expressions, to go beyond exercises in visual aesthetics. He wanted to integrate them into language, and in so doing, embed ideas into the milieu. No longer referring to all his vertical sculptures as "Towers" he began naming them as "Monuments" and "Memorials," thus tying them to larger ideas and releasing them from solely physical and visual presentations to work that conjures up  poetic speculation.


Shaffer grew up next to a church in Cumberland, Maryland. The church spire was set against the lofty skyline of the Alleghenies. Shaffer has long wondered why humans are compelled to build towers, obelisks, spires, grave markers, steeples, buildings and honor even mountains together with all manner of things that ascend vertically. In his travels to Italy in 2015, Shaffer learned of and photographed many towers in towns and villages, especially Lucca in one of the northern provinces where residents passionately integrated towers into their residential buildings competing fiercely to have the highest one until laws were passed to limit their height and the practice. So it is no surprise that Shaffer seeks to comprehend and honor our human need for memorialization by drawing attention to things well beyond man's common understanding including the sun and stars, angels and demons and worthy altruism and humanitarianism.


Just when you think you have Shaffer in context, just when you think you know his style and an understanding of where he is coming from and know what to suspect, he throws you a curve. Just when you think you know is art, believe it its grounded in concrete security of the rational, the orderly, the mathematical, and the inarguable correctness of right angles and lines, he'll hand you an old bug-damaged walnut shell stuck on a wire and call it art. . . Classic Shaffer.


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June 8 - July 11, 2010


Reston Town Square Park

12001 Sunrise Valley Drive

Reston, VA 20191







The installation of Mike Shaffer’s sculpture in Reston Town Square Park is made possible through the cooperation of Reston Town Center Association. gaps is the first temporary outdoor sculpture exhibition in the park and the first collaborative project between Initiative for Public Art – Reston (IPAR), Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE),  and Washington Sculptors Group (WSG). Previously in 2008 – 2009 IPAR supported Sleeping Tree, a multi-part project at GRACE and Dogwood Elementary School. 

Reston, VA:  Earthquake, The Way to Be, and Monument to the Sun and Stars, three vibrantly colored wood sculptures, will be situated in planting beds along the Market Street side of Reston Town Square Park during the week of June 7, 2010. The three works by Maryland sculptor, Mike Shaffer, appear as part of gaps, a juried exhibition, featuring twenty-two other artists whose work will be installed inside Greater Reston Arts Center adjacent to the park at 12001 Market Street. All sculpture was selected by Vesela Sretenovic, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Phillips Collection.

Mike Shaffer has exhibited his work throughout the mid-Atlantic region in both indoor and outdoor settings. His sculpture, Lighthouse/Whitehouse, is currently on view in the Foggy Bottom Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit in Washington, D.C. between 24th and 26th streets NW and H and K streets. Washington Post art critic, Blake Gopnik, singled out Shaffer’s work as, “The best piece on view, by the widest of margins…” and continued by saying “It’s good because, when you come across it on the lawn of a nice old Washington home, you can’t tell right away that it is art.” 


Gopnik’s rational for good art might also apply to Shaffer’s three sculptures included in gaps. The Way to Be, a simple, green tower, was included in POP-UP@SOMA. Sophisticated yet playful, the stacked wooden structure is reminiscent of both Buddhist temples and play equipment. Shaffer believes that his childhood passion for building architectural structures with colorful blocks and Lincoln Logs influenced his current projects.  “I like their openness and the way the bright crisscrossing beams and boards are able to define the space in which the whole work resides without completely separating it from its surroundings.”


Another brightly colored sculpture, Earthquake, also uses stacked timbers but these sturdy beams form a jumbled, haphazard pile. The work looks as though it might have once stood tall but was knocked over like a child’s block tower.


Shaffer’s third work, Monument to the Sun and Stars, unlike his other two, does not reference toys or play. The work developed during an exhibition in Gettysburg where the sculptor reflected on how we use monuments to honor figures from a specific time and place in history. Working from the opposite direction, Shaffer constructed his twelve-foot spire to honor the cosmos – a system that is timeless and universal.


To learn more about Mike Shaffer, visit his website at and join him as he discusses his work with juror, Vesela Sretenovic and other exhibition artists on Wednesday, July 7, from 6:00 -7:30pm at GRACE.


For an in-depth conversation about temporary vs. permanent public art, please join Dale Lanzone, President of Public Art International Marlborough, and a panel of public arts professionals on Tuesday, July 20, at 7:30pm at GRACE. 

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April 14 -- June 8, 2003

BlackRock Center for the Arts

12901 Town Commons Drive

Germantown, MD 20875




JS  Let's talk about scale now. I would guess they are about 5 by 5 feet. Is that fairly standard for you? [MS nods yes.] Okay, Bananarama Sing Song — very different from Strawberry Bisque. The loops are not quite as dominate but the grid is the power and here you used a yellow background. Is it mottled of flat?

MS  You know, I can't remember. If we take the time to look at it carefully, I could tell but right now I am not sure.

JS  You subsequently added some splatters, a little bit of Jackson Pollock I assume. The lines of the grid vary nicely and they are set at evocative angles which conjure up a nice tension. Why is it that sometimes you exhibit these on the horizontal and at other times at an angle.?


MS  It depends on how the work has developed—its character. I decide after I've had a chance to step back and look at a work in its near completeness. The only ones I show at an angle are those with clearly evident horizontal and vertical lines that are at an angle either in a grid or in horizontal-vertical patterns. I want to emphasize the overall arrangement of interesting lines by making it contrast with the painting's edges which are shifted away from their conventional orientations. The whole effect, I hope, grabs the viewer's attention and makes the work more powerful.


JS  There are those who might argue that you are being led by a gimmick. 

MS  That is certainly a valid point but I don't see this as being gimmicky. The idea seems to come right out of the works themelves. I could argue that there is no reason NOT to tilt the paintings if doing so seems logically related to their content. Why should anyone, especially in a field generally recognized for its connections to creativity be bound by the custom and conformity associated with the way they are displayed? Compared to shaped paintings and draped canvases, showing works at a angle see to me to be tame.

JS  Well, I do see your reasons—it is effective.  The painting, Earth Net Mind Set is a good example of that effective use. Here the angled grid is aesthetic Logic. It has a dark irregular background but I am looking now at the angles here where the horizontal black grid is behind a wafting kind of looping cloud, maybe some floating circles and spirals of blue and some confetti-like flickers of white. How did you do that?

MS  That is a good observation. In this work, the badkground is mottlerd as you cal it. The small light patches that show through were made by simply not covering the white ground completely with the dark background. The flickers are spatters, as opposed to splatters, that were added last but, as with most of these works, when I put on another layer, in this case for example, the dark purply black, I can add dimension by letting sections of the previous layers show through to varying degrees.

JS  Years ago, in writing about abstract works like these, Clement Greenberg would have pointed out the old empirical notions of the past and say, "Depth, you don't want depth," Virtually all abstraction then was flat but of course this is another generation and depth is perfectly acceptable. According to Greenberg, the two-dimensional element was the absolute foundation and power of abstraction but on the other hand, if you look at Jakson Pollock, you always see depth and space. Now, let's look at Beach Plum Outcome."

MS  Here we have the layers starting with a fairly uniform background of dark plum as the title suggests followed by smatterings of light blue swirls.

JS  Then you put on your grid in a completely asymmetrical fashion so that some of the lines are angled down, some are pinched toward being a cone and some are not. There is a lot of improvisation and I imagine you were trying for another kind of image.

MS  Yes, . . .another variation on the theme.

JS  Green Bean Cuisine is absolutely aleatory. It almost suggests figures—there on the left—something is going on. Are we viewing the rudiments of a depictive work? But no ,it is still very abstract. You have made a kind of unity by interlocking some of the linear elements, You offer a sense of potentiality, which you keep secret. One of the strongest things about any abstraction is to bring, if possible, a new area of provocation and this work does this very well. I like the arcing yellow grid and how it comes up to meet the one coming down from the upper right and interlocking with the next one sweeping across. It gives the whole work a satisfying kind of majesty and breeziness.

MS  Going now from go to stop, the red Tomato Soup Recoup shows what happens when the red elements are almost totally obscured to produce moistly light swirls and spots on a deep red field.

JS  In this work you have obviously splashed paint into your image. How did you do that? That is very interesting.

MS  In some cases I do it the same way Pollock did, by shaking or dripping paint off the end of a stick or brush. The canvas is still flat on the table at this point.

JS  Pollock used those sash brushes you know.

MS  I read about that. I also dribble paint from squeeze bottles or small cans depending on how thick it is and drizzle thin washes out of the aluminum pie tins I mix it in. I also use pieces of cardboard or rags and sponges and paint cans themselves to make circles and curved blobs. Sometimes I squirt watery paint from hypodermic syringes. 

JS  Of all that I have seen, where you have tilted the canvas to orient the grid along the horizontal-vertical axis, Green Mountain is one of the strongest because the grid is very dominate and colorful. And the red is very persistent and thrusting. The arched verticals makes it look as if a great wind were pushing it to the right. 

MS  One of effects I worked on in this painting that I do not normally use is illustrated by the little amorphous fields of yellow in the clouds rather than being uniform or regular.

JS  Yes, they are quite effective here because they are reinforced by the yellow in the grid that here has a dual purpose adding to the general schizophreniia of the work.

MS  What is your take on the way people seem to want to find representational images in abstract work.

JS  It does not always happen of course but it is a natural and impulssivee tendency. For example, when you see space in a Jackson Pollock or Hans Hoffman, they would say no way, it's clearly two dimensional. We tend to think of it as space if it looks the least bit like space, Also we see figures, real or imagined  in Pollock's later work because he began to see figures in what he was doing and gravitated in that direction. It is completely opposite to his early work.

MS  Now we are looking at Grapefruit Mousse.

JS  I think of Mark Toby when I see this scribbled dance. You say that Mark Toby and Agnes Martin have had vibrations in your life and it is very apparent here but at the same time you transformed it into something very personal.  What makes the difference is your personality and personal devotion to forms that come tumbling out of your mind. This free association is a vital part of abstraction. It's the "each triggers the next" thing and and you have said, you keep shooting —you keep working win till you like it.

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