Best Bets: Milford artist chairman of (card)board

As an artist, Michael Fleishman believes you should never discount anything when it comes to your creativity.

“If there’s something which you can use in your art somehow, let’s try that. Let’s paint with it. With odd stuff, let’s use drawing tools that wouldn’t normally be considered drawing tools, like sticks and that kind of thing. So I’ve always been a recycler, bringing recycled elements into my work,” he said.

When moving to Delaware in 2014, he took that mantra to the max.

After relocating he and his family from Ohio, he found himself surrounded by 300 boxes. Not wanting to waste them, he started putting them to work.

“I was the guy who mostly found all these boxes, put all these boxes together and tore all the boxes apart,” said Mr. Fleishman, who now lives in Milford after a brief stay in Ocean View.

“I thought ‘What a waste. This is actually good stuff to work on, to draw on, to paint on. I had done a little bit of it back in Ohio. But I said, “I just can’t throw all this out.” So I said, “Well, OK, let’s see what we can do with this?”

Thus Mr. Fleishman became The Cardboard Guy, creating works of art on most anything he can find — egg crates, moving containers, cereal boxes, pizza rounds and “mysterious scraps rescued from the here and there.”

He is one of 19 Individual Artist Fellows picked by the Delaware Division of Arts this year

The division annually offers fellowships in the artistic disciplines of choreography, folk art, jazz, literature, media arts, music, and visual arts.

Mr. Fleishman was named in the Emerging Professional category Visual Arts: Works on Paper.

His work is part of the “Award Winners XX” now on display at Dover’s Biggs Museum of American Art, which reopened to the public on Wednesday.

The former college professor, art teacher, illustrator and author of eight books said he loves the medium.

“I found that cardboard is a marvelous surface to draw on or to paint on. There’s not that much paint in there but there is some. It’s mostly really drawing on cardboard. So, it was great to discover just what a great surface that it was to work on,” he said.

“It’s very responsive to your pens and pencils and paints as well. It’s very responsive to all your drawing tools. It’s sturdy. You could put some pressure on your pen and get different kinds of lines, different effects that way. So, it’s just a fabulous surface to work on.”

He notes that many cardboard surfaces are corrugated but “it’s also a great surface to work with.”

“If you rip off that top layer and now you have these lines or stripes or whatever, you can draw on that. You can work with that. It’s another texture within your work. So you’re going to have a smooth surface of course. But you can also now tear off pieces of it, and you can get that corrugation to give you an alternate texture with the flat, smooth
layer of the cardboard itself,” he said.

Michael Fleishman

In addition to the works he will exhibit at the Biggs, Mr. Fleishman also hopes to have an exhibit of his 3-D work at Milford’s Gallery 37 in the fall.

“I’m always looking for ‘How can I use this stuff in a different way?’ ‘How can I take this in another direction?’ So I’ve been traditionally rectangles and squares, but the rectangles and squares led to working on circles,” he said.

“At The Palace restaurant (in Milford), I can get these pizza rounds. I’ll go in and say ‘I’m an artist in town. Would you be able to give me a pizza round so I could work with it? They will come out and give me eight or 10 pizza rounds. And I started working on that as a surface.

“So how do you frame a round piece? I found a place online where I can get plywood that comes in a circle and then I can mount it directly on the plywood. So I’m trying to work on all these different surfaces that give me different dimensions and different sizes. But the 3-D pieces are not very big at all, and some of them are rather small. Because that’s a challenge. I have worked large and small, and I like both of those challenges. They’re an interesting way to push this medium.”

Aside from going into restaurants to find his beloved cardboard, Mr. Fleishman said he has gone to some interesting lengths.

‘My wife has evidence of me Dumpster diving for cardboard,” Mr. Fleishman said with a laugh.

“But I haven’t jumped in a Dumpster for a while. It’s great the stuff you can find. Ostensibly, we are looking for boxes. Oh let’s find boxes so we can move but really you’re just looking for a great piece of cardboard,” he said.

“My son laughs at me and says ‘Oh, the things that excite you in your older age. Cardboard. They always know not to throw out boxes. They always know that they ask me first if I can use it downstairs in the studio. My wife challenged me to use a Quaker Oats container and said ‘Let me see if you could do something out of this?’ So I did. I created a 3-D piece out of a Quaker Oats container.”

Along with it being a source of creativity and business, his work became a real help to him last fall as he was recovering from a heart attack at Bayhealth-Kent Campus in Dover.

“My wife set me up a little studio right on my hospital bed. I was actually getting started on some pieces, while I was still in the hospital. It was amazing. Nobody stopped me. The nurses came in. They all loved it. They were all looking at everything. I wasn’t able to do much more than get it started but I did get a really good start on it,” he said.

“And when I got home, it really was a big step towards my recovery. It really was a godsend that I could do this and was something that I absolutely love to do. It was very relaxing. So Joanne set up the studio upstairs. And I would work in the evening on the kitchen table until I could get down to the studio to work again. But yeah, it was a huge, huge part of my recovery.”

To see more of Mr. Fleishman’s work, visit MichaelFleishman.com.

The Biggs will be open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Purchasing advanced, timed tickets is strongly encouraged as the museum is adhering to social distancing guidelines.

You can pre-purchase tickets online at BiggsMuseum.org or by phone at 302-674-2111 Ext. 0. Parties will be limited to 10 visitors per group.

Walk-ins are welcome but may be subject to wait times if there are parties with reservations on the schedule. The museum will only accept debit and credit payments at this time.

Personal storage lockers and the coat closet will be closed. Backpacks and large purses are not permitted in the galleries.

Other areas which will be closed include the: gift shop, library, water fountain, and access to shared art supplies in the Child Help Gallery.

Masks will be required and sanitization stations will be available.

The Biggs Museum of American Art is at 406 Federal St., Dover.

More art news

•In other art news, the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington will reopen to the public starting this Wednesday.

To keep guests safe, Plexiglas shields will be installed at the front desk and in the museum store. Guests will also be required to wear face masks and practice social distancing. The Thronson Café will be closed until further notice. Maps and brochures will only be available electronically for the time being.

The museum will return to its regular operating hours, which are as follows: Monday and Tuesday: closed; Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Thursday: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

The museum has extended its two spring exhibitions through the remainder of the year, including “Layered Abstraction: Margo Allman” and “Helen Mason,” on view until Jan. 17, 2021, and “Julio daCunha: Modernizing Myths,” on view until Nov. 1.

The Delaware Art Museum is at 2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington.

•The Rehoboth Art League will host three new exhibitions beginning Friday, July 17, on its Henlopen Acres campus.

The Corkran and Tubbs Gallery will feature the 82nd Annual Members’ Fine Art Exhibition. This exhibition annually showcases artwork by dozens of Rehoboth Art League member artists in a wide variety of media including paintings in pastel, watercolor, acrylic, oil, and mixed media, sculpture, photography, and more. Following a long-standing tradition at the league, a variety of awards of excellence will be presented. The awards judge for this year’s exhibit is Kristin Pleasanton, who has worked with the Delaware Division of the Arts for 20 years and now serves as the division’s deputy director.

Also opening on July 17 in the Ventures Gallery is David Oleski’s, “Prime Numbers,” a collection of recent still lifes in oil. Mr. Oleski, a Philadelphia-based fine artist, has found a voice in his version of an intense scrutiny of the world around him. Following in the footsteps of the 19th century Impressionists,

Finally, the Peter Marsh Homestead will debut its “Recent Acquisitions” show, a collection of newly acquired pieces — from historic to contemporary works — in the organization’s permanent collection.

They will be on display through Aug. 23. The galleries are free and open to the public seven days a week. The Rehoboth Art League is located at 12 Dodds Lane, in Henlopen Acres. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. –4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday noon to 4 p.m.

For more information, visit rehobothartleague.org or call 302-227-8408.

• In December, Mispillion Art League said goodbye to founding member and artist Sara Gallagher as she retired from her role on the board of directors. She served on the board as chairperson of the Public Arts Committee and was a past president. She also initiated the 3rd Thursday Programs, bringing in art-focused speakers, films, and demonstrations.

Pearl Burbage also retired from the board at the end of June. A lifelong Milford resident, Ms. Burbage graduated from Milford High School, married, and raised three children. She received her degrees from Delaware State University in 1977 and 1978 in Natural Resources and Agriculture.

She was the fundraising chair for the board.

Mary Galligan’s term as president expired July 1 as Morgan Golladay was named the new president. Ms. Golladay has an extensive background in nonprofit organizations, both as a staff member and as a volunteer. She is an acrylic artist and poet.

Also on July 1, Martha Gery became vice president. She is manager of Strategy and Planning for Cisco and joined the board in February. She serves as project manager for The Big Draw Festival DE and exhibits chair.

They also welcomed new board members Rosemary Connelly, a retired graphic designer and chair of The Big Draw Festival DE; landscape architect Eric Wahl; and retired middle school art teacher Keith Warren.