The Artwork of Michael Costello
Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1957, Michael Costello is an American realist painter. After graduating from Burlington High School, he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts at Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University under figurative painter Barnett Rubinstein known primarily for his still life work. Costello’s work explores humankind’s anxiety in the twentieth-century through images that capture the human body’s vulnerability and celebrate its perceived flaws.
During his study years in Boston, Costello focused his work on twentieth-century objects and their place as icons in history. He moved in 1978 to Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he has shown his work for over three decades. While living there, Costello’s work was noticed and encouraged by the late figure painter Alice Neel, whose expressive work challenged the traditional, objectified nude depictions of women by her male predecessors.
In 1984, Michael Costello relocated his studio back to Boston and began working with the Barbara Singer Fine Art gallery through which his work was introduced to corporate art collections in the metropolitan area. In the mid-1980s, Costello began his annual European travels to work ‘plein air’ and in association with various artist residencies. In 2008, he became the first recipient of The Pollack-Krasner Masters to Byrdcliffe; the primary criterion for acceptance at Byrdcliffe is artistic excellence or demonstrated commitment to one’s field of endeavor.
Much of Costello’s inspiration springs from writings, in particular Umberto Eco’s essays “The History of Beauty” and “On Ugliness”, and from such classical figures of tragedy as Pagliacci, the clown figure of Italian opera, and Gilles, the male heraldic-dressed figures of Belgium carnivals. Costello works from life; he choses his models based on their ability to inspire empathy for the human condition. He paints them with emotional honesty, without flattery, and with recognition of any imperfections. Costello believes through the presentation of their nude bodies the psychology of the sitter overrides the formality of portraiture, thus revealing the sitter’s unconscious.
Michael Costello’s 2018 series “La Comedia é Finita” (The Comedy is Finished)” is a series of drawings in charcoal, pastel and Russian clay that depicts models as a twentieth-century Pierrot, the clown of pantomime and early comedy theater. Costello’s drawings, depicting clowns in various states of repose and undress, explore mankind’s relationship with the icons of jesters and fools. Reminding us that we are more than we appear on the outside, the figures of varying race, gender and orientation are a reflection of our own lives with its tragedies and hopes.
Costello has presented his work in both group and solo exhibitions since 1980. Among the over fifty group exhibitions in which he has exhibited are the 1980 and 1982 “Small Works Show” held by the Provincetown Art Association, the 1991 “Nuclear Solstice” and 1994 “Fantastically Real” at the Mills Gallery in conjunction with the Boston Center for the Arts, the 2008 “Byrdcliffe Pollock-Kransner Fellows” at the Kleinert/James Art Center, the 2013 “Off the Wall” at the Danforth Art Museum, and the 2018 “Three” at the Attleboro Arts Museum in Massachusetts.
Michael Costello has had over thirty solo exhibitions in galleries throughout the east coast of the United States, These exhibitions include, among others, multiple shows at The New East End Gallery in Provincetown; the Barbara Singer Fine Art gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts; The Schoolhouse Center in Provincetown; the A Street Gallery in Boston; Ashawagh Hall in East Hampton, New York; the 101 Exhibit in Miami; and The Lucky Street Gallery in Key West, Florida. Since 2015, Michael Costello has shown yearly at Provincetown’s contemporary William Scott Gallery with whom he is represented.
In addition to private collections, Costello’s work can be found in many corporate and public collections including the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, the Federal Reserve, Chicago’s Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, the Boston Public Library, the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, and the headquarters of Wellington Management and Fidelity Investment, among others.
“For over thirty years I have worked with models to comment on our cultural heritage, both philosophical and theological, to acquaint all that is good with beauty. We focus on making clear definitions of what is ugly and what is beautiful, which often shuns both sides to the extreme, turning the beautiful, ugly and making ugly, beautiful. My work with the model as muse gives us a window into the individual soul. I intend to inspire the viewer to observe the subject with a level of pathos; to confront the truth within themselves, what they believe to be beautiful.” – Michael Costello, Boston Voyager Interview, March 2018
Michael Costello’s website with images, exhibitions and contact information is located at: https://www.michaelcostelloartist.com
Note: A 2019 interview with Michael Costello which discusses his “Dancers” drawings, a part of the 2013 series “Boxers and Ballerinas”, can be found at the online art platform “Pineapple” located at: https://pnpplzine.com/index.php/2019/01/08/michael-costello/
Top Insert Image: Meagan Hepp, “Michael Costello”, 2018, Color Print, Boston Voyager March 2018
Second Insert Image: Michael Costello, “Pierrot Enraged”, “La Comedia é Finita” Series, 2018, Pastel, Charcoal and Russian Clay on Paper, 76.2 x 56.5 cm, Private Collection
Third Insert Image: Michael Costello, “Self Portrait Based on Rembrandt”, 2017, Oil on Canvas, 66 x 55.9 cm, William Scott Gallery
Bottom Insert Image: Michael Costello, “Marat Redux”, 2011, Oil on Canvas, 122 x 122 cm, Private Collection