“Always struggling against the facile and fashionable, Michael Spafford has created a unique, monumental style that is a synthesis of powerful imagery and brilliant formal invention. He draws upon his masterful draftsmanship and rigorous formal skills to create paintings that are psychologically penetrating.  His vision is a timeless one conveying both an affirmation of life and a deep awareness of mortality. Spafford’s paintings are provocative, emphatic statements that haunt memory.”
    – Bruce Guenther, Curator of Contemporary Art


Current Exhibitions

Greg Kucera Gallery and Woodside/Braseth Gallery:   April 5-May 26th, 2018
Davidson Galleries: April 5- 30th     Opening Receptions: Thursday, April 5, 6-8pm

Michael C. Spafford, one of the most important painters in the Northwest, will be the focus of a groundbreaking simultaneous 3-gallery exhibition. His unique, monumental style is a synthesis of powerful imagery and brilliant formal invention, distilling the action of mythological narrative. Spafford, one of the group of influential painters/teachers sometimes called the University Group of the Northwest School of painting, has used Greco-Roman mythology as the catalyst for a body of work spanning 60 years. He returns to certain epics tales, including The Labors of Hercules, The Iliad, and The Odyssey, reworking multiple versions in various formats. The exhibition will be presented as a complete body of work, spread over 3 galleries, with each locale offering different mythologies or medium. Exhibiting a large segment of these works gives the public a rare opportunity to glimpse the scope and depth of the artist’s vision.

An 88-page monograph, entitled Epic Works, will accompany the exhibition. Published by Lucia/Marquand and distributed by the UW Press, the hardbound book includes a forward by noted writer and curator Bruce Guenther (Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seattle, Chicago, Orange County and Portland) and descriptive background on the relevant myths. Drawn from works in the exhibit, it also functions as a catalog. Order the book through the University of Washington Press.


Art Zone: Michael Spafford's 'Epic Works'
4/6/2018 8:08
Renowned Northwest painter Michael Spafford gets an epic three-gallery retrospective of his work. Nancy Guppy chats with the curators of the unique exhibition: Spike Mafford, Michael's son, and Lisa Dutton, Michael's daughter-in-law.

"Epic Works" light up Seattle, by Adwoa Gyimah-Brempong & Marci Sillman
April 9, 2018

The Seattle Times:
Three Seattle galleries join forces to display works of artist Michael Spafford, by Gayle Clemans
March 28, 2018

Greg Kucera Gallery Press Release
February 1, 2018


Upcoming Exhibitions

EPIC WORKS TIETON: This summer, there will be a special exhibit at Mighty Tieton, an exhibition space in the Tieton Arts and Humanities complex near Yakima. In keeping with the Epic theme, several significant works will be shown: the first-ever showing of Spafford’s complete woodblock print series’ “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”. These combined 48 prints will cover the gallery’s walls, alongside the massive painting, “Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs”. A special presentation on the printing process is in the works.



Michael C. Spafford is one of the most respected and admired artists living and working in the Northwest today. A graduate of Pomona College and Harvard University, he is a Professor Emeritus of the University of Washington School of Art. During his career as a painter and printmaker he has received numerous awards, including a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation grant, the first Behnke Foundation “Neddy” award and a Flintridge Foundation Award. In 1967 he was given the prestigious Rome Prize and was honored in 1983 with an art award from The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, NYC. In 2005 he was invited to be Artist-In-Residence at Dartmouth College which concluded in a major exhibition of recent paintings. His work has been widely collected and exhibited and includes mural commissions at the Kingdome, The Washington State House of Representatives Chamber and the Seattle Opera House. Spafford remains an integral and sometimes provocative, force in the vibrant cultural milieu of Seattle.

Above all, he is a painter devoted to his work with inspiring rigor, humility, and depth.



This alteration of Descartes’ famous phrase has become something of a motto for Spafford, who prefers to be called a painter rather than an artist. He is most interested in the physical and formal challenges of the process of painting, while seeking interesting and effective expressive equations to the action of the narrative. Much of his work is based on Greco-Roman and Mexican mythology, though his mural in McCaw Hall was inspired by a Wallace Stevens poem entitled “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”  Marshaling the figurative aspects of these enduring allegories in an abstract way creates a scaffold for direct expression. Furious creation and metamorphosis, the often brutal confrontation of opposites and the ultimate failure of heroic struggle — all emerge through Spafford’s efforts to translate these gestures into tangible, cathartic visual terms. Exploring a recurring theme over time in extended series has allowed him to rework them freshly again and again.  He builds the cumulative power of the imagery with each successive interpretation. His instinctive, rigorous physical approach to his work seems like a form of devotion, informed by a rare intelligence and power.


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