photo: fred lopez
HOME: Leesburg resident since April 2015
PASSIONS: Mike has been painting since he was 6. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attack 15 years ago, he began a mission to paint portraits of the 2,977 victims based from small photos in the New York Times database.
BY THE NUMBERS: He’s painted about 1,500 portraits so far.
ATTRACTING ATTENTION: After Mike placed a notice to victims’ families about his project in the New York Times, it attracted national media coverage and 100-plus hours of video of him in action for a documentary.
INTERRUPTIONS: His painting has been slowed down by life interruptions from a divorce, relocating to Alabama to care for his ill mother, followed by Mike finding love again after meeting his wife Sue at a Sept. 11, 2013, exhibit of his work.
BEHIND THE CANVAS: I’ve gone around the country and had 15 shows of the portraits, plus fundraisers associated with the project. As far as the paintings, I’m about halfway through. I was hoping to do more portraits, but there have been a lot of distractions. My car blew up, my wife had surgery. Life has gotten in the way.
EMOTIONALLY INVOLVED: Painting the 1,500 portraits so far has been tremendously enriching to me as an artist. Meeting some of the families has been the hard part. It’s hard for me to hear their gratitude when I think about their loss.
ART SHOW CHALLENGE: There are some logical problems hauling around 1,400-some paintings for art shows, but smaller galleries will call and say, ‘Can you display 50 or 100?’ At the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, I had about 800 paintings and split it in three different shows. (Two were Manhattan venues).
DOCUMENTARY SUBJECT: I’m a painter, so no one was more shocked than I was [to be the subject of a documentary], and it never occurred to me that there would ever be any interest. I don’t know if it will be on TV or not, but they’re editing it, and they were hoping to have it ready for the 15th anniversary. Whether they will or not is an open question. A&E made an early bid for it, but they were more interested in submitting it to Tribeca or Sundance. They’ve been following me around since 2002.
WHAT I LOVE MOST: My wife, Sue, and of course I love my kids, too.
MY MOTTO: Go for it!
MY DAY JOB HAS BEEN LAW: I am still licensed to practice and I touch on issues from time to time. Occasionally something will come along that will catch my interest and I’ll work with it.
MY FAVORITE FOOD: Pasta in all variations: spaghetti, lasagna, and I really like lobster pasta.
BEST ADVICE I’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN: Pay attention.
PET PEEVE: Poor grammar.
ONE WORD THAT BEST DESCRIBES ME: Nuts!
PROJECTED COMPLETION FOR REMAINING PAINTINGS: I would like to finish it before I die. Again, there’s this whole thing of life interfering…But, by God, I’m going to finish this.