Galen Garwood quote
Michael A. Knutson was born to Loren and Margo Knutson in 1970 in San Jose, California. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Port Townsend, Washington where his brother, Luke, was born. The two siblings grew up adventuring along the coastal beaches, forests and waterways. Following a bitter divorce, the brothers were taken to live in Eureka, California with their mother, although they would return to Port Townsend each summer to live with their father. At age 15, Michael left Eureka to live with his aunt and uncle in Warren, Minnesota where he finished high school, hoping to leave the struggles of a difficult childhood behind.
In 1989, Knutson attended the University of Washington, studying English Literature and rowing on the crew team, earning a gold medal as a freshman at the West Coast Rowing Championships. College life was a turbulent time for a young Knutson, matched in many ways by the upheaval of the local music scene which enraptured the future artist. In this time, a close friendship was developed with legendary painter Galen Garwood. Lacking any substantial direction and clinging to a job as a doorman at a night club, Knutson left Seattle to join the U.S. Marine Corps. Michael confided in a close friend later: "I really didn't want to go into the Marines,... I simply needed to find a path to a truer self. The Marines kept a noble quality to themselves, which I admired. I thought I might phoenix, in a way, with them... I had no idea that the act of artistry would come from the time in service." Emerge, however, he certainly did. Knutson, having become the top graduate of the hundreds of recruits, trained as an anti-tank assaultman and was selected for Presidential Guard in Washington D.C.. It was in a tiny studio atop a garage in Southeast D.C. where the first paintings and poems of Michael A. Knutson would emerge.
The art world, into which he began to journey, readily accepted his work. Coffee shop exhibits turned into gallery shows. Strangers began to purchase his washed acrylic and ink forms on paper. Knutson finished his four-year service and returned to Seattle. His friends and acquaintances, surprised and somewhat taken aback, witnessed exhibitions morph into large warehouse extravaganzas. Galen Garwood, the consummately wise artist, mentored Knutson along the way.
In 1999, Knutson formed an art house called the Soma Group in the once quiet and defunct neighborhood of South Capitol Hill. With new peers, Michael found an ecstatic lifestyle of constant creativity. The Soma Group produced films, exhibits, concerts and literature. "We celebrated anything Avant Garde... so we ended up celebrating practically everything," former member Patrick Taylor recalls. It proved to be an enormous time for Knutson.
In 2004, Michael rented a 2,500 square foot loft in downtown Seattle's Pioneer Square. Inside the new space, his canvas sizes evolved into larger and larger works; the dimensions of some reaching tens of feet. Many paintings had to be dismantled and rolled up in order to leave the loft. In this time, Michael confided with his closest friends that he longed to get away and return to the sensations of a childhood spent outside with his brother. He also wanted to leave for New York City.
In 2005, Michael A. Knutson departed for the East Coast. In the early winter of the same year, he opened an exhibition of paintings in Tribeca. The following day, he mysteriously left on a train headed north. By the beginning of December, he was alone in a small cabin on the northeastern-most tip of Moose Island, Maine, without money, firewood, transportation, food or much of anything else.
In 2008, Knutson re-emerged in California, driving a truck full of paintings into San Francisco. He quietly settled into a tiny studio in the Tenderloin District. Eventually, he started painting in an old tackroom barn at a mountain ranch in Napa where he worked as a hand and hunting guide for wild boar. One of the owners of the ranch knew where the notorious Molly Barnes of "Molly Barnes: Art News" usually had her hair done in Beverly Hills. Using the ranch pickup, Michael drove down and asked the hairdresser to put a photo album of his paintings in her lap during one of her visits. Back at the ranch, weeks and months went by. Finally, word came back that Molly wanted to represent him, and that he must move to Los Angeles.
To be continued...