Michael Helsley Artist Statement

What happens to memory after a traumatic event? How do you remember? After the traumatic death of my wife and the intense grief that followed, I became curious about my memories.  Were they real? Were they imagined?  Memory is tricky.  Memory is both true and imaginary.  Memories can be direct or second-hand, remembered through an object or another person.  Memory can really be whatever you want it to be.

It’s been over 10 years now and I still struggle, and that’s ok.  After you lose someone, memories can be both comforting and traumatic.

What memories stick with you?  I use billboards in my work, images you’ve probably seen before, but they’ve been repurposed into something new. Is there something familiar about it to you?  It might be because you’ve seen it before.  I also use characters throughout my work that are familiar as well. The Bear, The Campfire, and The Grilled Cheese are all familiar to you- consider what these images mean to you?  What memories do you have of the comfort of a warm grilled cheese on a cold day or a summer campfire with friends?  The characters in my work represent different parts of my journey through grief and my exploration of memory.


I live in Carmel, Indiana, creating art and memories with my partner, cats, and chickens.  I have a BFA from Pratt Institute and an MFA.


Considering I often use re-purposed billboards in my work, seeing my work as a billboard was rewarding.

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