Artist Michael Ward Expresses
Hope and Emotion
A Whirl of Vivid Emotion
|Through simplistic drawings,
artist Michael Ward expresses
deep thoughts and emotions.
Ward was always looking for an outlet to express his feelings and took up spoken word poetry for a while.
“Back in New York, I was always involved in some kind of way with art, whether it was poetry or just drawing things on shirts,” Ward
said. “In was always in the mix of something that was artistic. I did spoken word kind of poetry. As I competed, I got my little step-up. But
then I just became nervous when I was supposed to take that final leap. And I just stepped back and focused on my drawing for a
moment. Being out in the public felt like being a fish in a fishbowl. I would pull myself back and then I would pull myself up. It was a fight
between doing the poetry or doing my shirts and the drawing. I chose to focus on my drawing because it was going to draw a little less
Ward grew up in a home where his mother and father dabbled in art although neither of them was a professional artist. And he developed
his art style by retracing art work that his mother had created.
“After she drew, I used to trace over her drawings on back of the paper and then I just added my own little twist to it,” Ward said.
Ward uses colored pencils and watercolor pens to create his art. He uses cold, bright colors because he wants to have a positive impact
“I learned that art has everything to do with mood,” Ward said. “I try to keep myself up in a positive mood, so my colors are more positive
and they pop out bright.”
We looked at Radio Cosmos, Ward’s creation that he holds on the front cover of this paper. While on the surface the drawings look
simplistic, every feature has deep meaning.
“Radio Cosmos means someone steps outside of themselves,” Ward said. “He sees where he came from. He came from a side where it
was wicked. But at the same time, life is a riddle. The radio shows movement. Not only that, the rocket means taking it to another level.
You can’t keep yourself on a lower level. You’ve got to always step up the ladder. And if you look, there are always two sides to a person,
negative and positive. But both of them have to be evenly yoked as one. It reminds me of the symbol for yin and yang, a symbol of
harmony, opposites together as a whole.
‘One of the sides has its mouth open. You have to think before you speak. The eye inside of the mouth has to focus and realize that who or
what he speaks about could be dangerous. That’s why his mouth is open. It’s open, but it isn’t saying anything. The multi-colored hair
means life and vibration. He’s in harmony with his emotion. That’s why you see all sorts of color.
If you look closely at the man, it looks like he is up to something. He is the pull back. That’s the old him reflecting. If you look, this is a
window. He’s taking a back step, but he is also looking out the window to a higher, powerful other things that he might come across. It’s
emotions and feelings.”
As we speak, I realize more and more what a beautiful — and strong — person Ward is. He takes his childhood trauma beyond the realm
of making positive out of negative. He takes it to a whole different level.
“I’ve been given a second chance, an opportunity to go ahead and express myself,” Ward said of his injury. “My faith could probably lead
to someone else that was down and out and pick them up from out of that hole. I’m here for a reason. I don’t really call my car accident a
tragedy. I call it more so a blessing because it makes me different. And there is nothing wrong with being different because being different
brings different opportunities. I think God set me up in a certain way that I had to pull myself up to be strong, stronger than a lot of other
people and by the same token, to give back, to give back to those who don’t have the strength. Like I was telling my Uncle Ruben,
everyone has a disability. Either you can see it or you can’t see it. But it is your choice to deal with it or not to deal with it. So the way that
I deal with mine is through my art. It’s from my little beliefs that I have to continue to be different and continue to go for my opportunities.”
Ward has a positive force within him, a self-actualizing power, that is as bright as the colors he draws with.
“I am a very spiritual person,” Ward emphasized. “I would say that because of my car accident, I came in tune with myself. I became
enlightened with different things that I could do and the things that I’m told that I can’t do. You can’t tell me that I can’t do something if I’m
living and breathing. The only person who has that ability is me. Once someone tells me that I can’t do it, I’m going to try my best to do it
because he or she believes certain things about a disability and that’s not gotten me to where I am right now. It’s all in the head. If you
look at the sky and the stars, there is no stopping you. There is only a roof and if you choose to put the roof on you, on your destiny, on your
life, if you are going to sit back and cry about things that you might fail in, you are never going to pick yourself up. You have to work on
things that you are strong at and the things that you are weak at, you work on that in your own time and strengthen it. But notice it. Take
hold of it. And once you take hold of it, no one can set their foot on you and tell you something that they feel is wrong or right. I feel like I
And because he has dealt with and ponder the implications of being differently-abled, Ward feels that he can be a role model for others
who may feel — inwardly or outwardly — they are differently-abled.
“Where I will go from here is hopefully get my art work up in the schools,” Ward said. “Hopefully as I get the chance to talk to other people
who have disabilities, I will be a mentor, so that they will have that belief and that strength. I want them to count on themselves as much
as counting on anyone else to help them. I think that is my goal. And with that, I think everything else will fall in place. I’m not worried
about the wealth because I am wealthy with knowledge. But I have to give. That’s how I feel.”
Ward hopes that people will take the time to visit and learn from his exhibit Obsurd.
“I call my work Obsurd,” Ward said. “That is about how you feel my art because the way that I see it is totally different. I could bring you to
my work, but I want you to go on your own journey with the picture. Take in what you see and go with it.”
It is a powerful journey indeed.
By Jonathan Gramling
As we sit in the basement viewing his art, Michael Ward — whose art exhibit Obsurd will be on display
in the UW Health Sciences Learning Center’s Ebling Library through September 24th — said something
about his art that resonated through my very core.
“People bring their own experiences and emotions to the art work,” Ward said. “You have to because
my art takes you to another place like it took me to another place at that moment. But it might be up on a
And Ward’s observation could be applied to Ward himself. Five days after he was born, Ward and his
mother were involved in a car accident after they left the hospital. Ward received brain injuries that left
him differently-abled for the rest of his life.
Differently-abled people have been much maligned in American culture, viewed with horrific
stereotypes. And as I interview Ward, I must fight off those “false experiences” that I might use to view
Ward and his work and reach the other side to experience Ward as the deep and thoughtful person that
When Ward was growing up in Queens, New York, he searched for an outlet away from the sometimes
harsh life of the streets.
“Art was my kind of outlet of reaching outside of myself, from what was going on in the neighborhood
and I had to channel outside of that and I just got into my own little world,” Ward said. “My art was an
escape. My art has emotions and feelings.”