Michael Fleishman


Visual Arts: Works on Paper

By: Gail Obenreder

“A whole career doing painting and drawing has led me to the recycling bins…a corrugated road paved with egg crates, moving containers, cereal boxes, pizza rounds, and mysterious scraps rescued from the here and there.”

After a decades-long, full-on career as a professor, illustrator, art teacher, author (8 published books), and artist (painting, drawing, cartooning), in 2015 Michael Fleishman “packed my life and studio into 300 boxes.” He moved with his family from small-town Ohio, expecting a fresh start easing into retirement in the “offseason beachside bliss” of southern Delaware.

“A Moral Aroma,” 2019, cardboard, marker, 10 x 10 x .25 inches

But those 300 boxes spoke to him and (almost devilishly) have made their way into his creative life. Fleishman began to explore the qualities of cardboard as a medium, finding in that much maligned and unconventional material both a puzzle to be solved and a challenge to explore. As a student, he didn’t “dabble much in the sculptural or abstract. I was a PAINTER. I loved to DRAW! Now, I get referred to as THE CARDBOARD GUY and I couldn’t be more pleased.” Born in Pittsburgh, Fleishman grew up “just about literally” in his dad’s movie theatre (the Regent Square), so his artistic imagination was forged by the cinema, along with a wide swath of sources ranging from “every comic book I ever bought” to Louise Nevelson, Cubism and Rocky and Bullwinkle. But he cites as a daily inspiration his wife, Joanne Caputo, who quips (only partly joking) that “no box on the side of the road is safe when I’m around.”

“Tip It,” 2019, cardboard, marker, paint, 16 x 16 x .25 inches

Now settled with his family in Milford, Fleishman teaches classes for adults and kids at the Mispillion Art League, including cartooning and – of course – a cardboard workshop. He’s planning to use the Division’s award to upgrade his studio and expand his stock of art supplies, indulging in “my serious addiction to scissors, brush pens and markers.” And of course, he’ll be preparing for his Fellowship exhibition, where he hopes viewers will also enjoy some palindrome titles.

“One? No,” 2019, cardboard, styrofoam, marker, 18 x 24 x .5 inches

During a recent health challenge, Fleishman found that his relatively newfound artistic practice was critical to his recovery. He needed materials and tools that were “lightweight and straightforward,” and he found them in cardboard, where working within a limited space both amplifies and clarifies a lifetime of artistic concepts. Fleishman loves exploring this ubiquitous and humble material, so “wonderfully simple it presents a simply wonderful challenge,” and he “takes delight at the ideas that pop out of an ordinary cardboard box.”

Artist website: michaelfleishman.com

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