STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE: MICHAEL MCGREGOR

People

STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE: MICHAEL MCGREGOR

By: Mills

When living is prioritized, art will follow.

This is the concept that artist Michael McGregor lives by. Drawing inspiration from life itself, his focus has been on his own art and contributions to editorial outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, Harper’s Bazaar, and Kennedy Magazine.

Born in Connecticut and raised in New Jersey, McGregor has lived all across the US, most recently moving from MINERAL's home in Austin to Los Angeles. McGregor finds inspiration through his lived daily rituals that allow him to absorb the world around him. 

McGregor tells us of his newest routine addition - surfing, and how MINERAL plays a role.

What’re your current priorities?

Keeping my heart and mind open, trying to live in harmony with the sun and the moon, and the sea, and the land. All the jazz. Letting those things flow, and seeing what arrives from there. 

We thought your contribution to Kennedy Magazine gave some great background into what you’re currently learning. Explain how art currently plays a role in your life.

My life is pretty low key, very ritualistic and habitual. I wake up and go to the beach to swim or surf, or I wake up and paint, and go surfing after (if it’s good). In LA, I drive around listening to AM 1260, an oldies station in LA that has been extremely inspiring to me the last few months. It’s mostly a cycle of drives to the beach, being in the ocean, and making art at home. 

When those things feel like they are flowing, the art simply comes. It’s an interplay, and I try to keep living-art in harmony, but if I’m being honest, Living is the priority, “Sailing on the river of life” as Henry Miller would say,  and when it’s being prioritized, the art comes. 

How do you develop your work? Do you have a long-term vision, or is that process spontaneous?

The best moments for me is when work comes together really organically, almost magically, and then after you’ve made a few pieces, you start to see how all these things around you have influenced it, subconsciously or semi-consciously, or via osmosis. That’s my favorite. It’s a romance I’ve recently been having with these semaphoric tile paintings I’ve been making. I’ve started to see patterns & iconography in everything— road signs, beach towels, shirts; nautical flags, petroglyphs, iconography, emoji, favicons, et al. 20/20 vision is hindsight, but sometimes it feels like you are really absorbing the world around you and reconfiguring it, unconsciously. And that’s a good feeling. 

You also specialize in strategy and communications. Tell us about how that plays a role in your world, and how do you keep it interesting for yourself?

It’s funny when you end up “specializing” in something you never had any intention of being involved with. It definitely expands your ways of seeing but at the moment. In my art practice, I’ve probably tipped the scale toward un-strategic — trying to make as much as possible, finding new ways of expressing, new mediums; some work, others not so much. Ultimately, everything we do, all of our experiences, influence all of our actions. It’s all one big trip, so I do consider my work biographical, a sort of visual sum of all my previous experiences up until the moment something is created. 

How’s surfing going?

It’s really humbling to start a new challenging thing when you are in your late 30s. To be open to something, and say to yourself, “you have no idea what you are doing, and you have to learn from step 1.” Surfing is hard! Like learning a new language. It’s HARD; so i say to myself, it’s all good, you are learning, like learning to ride a bike, you are going to fall, you are going to have fun, you are going to get hurt, and you’ll have more fun. So making progress every time I paddle out is just...really cool. Every wave makes all the driving, and nose diving, and shitty pop-ups worth it. It’s cool to really focus on learning the foundational aspects of something new, and be active in practicing it on a daily basis. You can learn a lot quickly and feel your progress, which is a nice thing, even when I am sucking I still find so much value.  Like, I can tell my paddling is getting better! That may sound like whatever, but it’s a big deal and i’m stoked on it. Today I rode an overhead left, backside, carving from high to low, it was my first wave of the day, and by far the best one. By far the best wave I’ve ever caught. Baby steps and being humble and just sticking to it, having fun, and you really start to make progress. 

How does music play a role in your life?

My first love, probably my one true love. It’s the most universal language, the most connecting thing in the world. The rhythm of life! If I could do anything well, besides speaking like 150 languages, I would love to be a great piano player, and feel like I can communicate with anyone, anywhere. Perhaps music is the equivalent of speaking 150 languages. Self expression that is also communication; art is similar, but music is the rhythm of life, and it’s inextricable from our existence as humans on earth. 

What’s something interesting that’s changed in 2020 for you?

I’ve ditched a lot of illusions about life and love that were ingrained in my thinking, through my experiences, education, etc. At this point, all I know is that I don’t know. And that’s ok! It’s pretty liberating to look at the world in a totally new light, and to think, ok, let’s just get out there, try to be kind and curious, and go with the flow. 

Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t expect.

I’ve been having a real romance with the Spice Girls song “2 Become 1.” It’s been hitting me in this really spiritual way, like it really describes the ascension that is possible through love. It’s a pretty cheesy love song but in my mind it’s become this bizarre representation of the duality of life, and aiming to be more zen or taoist in approach. Sometimes I interpret it as “to become one” rather than “2 become 1”, which feels like embracing duality and becoming whole, through love — of self, others, and the world. Which sounds absurd! And probably is, but when Mel B sings “Free your mind of doubt and danger /Be for real don't be a stranger / We can achieve it”, that feels like a mantra to me, and I’m with it. 

MINERAL is new to your world. When have you found it to be most useful?

The MINERAL rub (MAISON) has become a post-surf go-to. I keep it in my wagon and usually rub it over my shoulders after a surf, before I’ve even taken my wetsuit all the way off. It’s a quick relief for the surf buzz drive home. Smells really good too, much better than neoprene and old salt water. 

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