Alumni News

Alumni Arts: The Spirit of the Land


A mountain at the center of the canvas is lightly covered with snow at its peak, while the field below it is green and holds blue, yellow, and brown boxes or containers scattered across to the right. A town sits between the field and the mountain.
Mt. Nebo with Beehives, oil on wood, 16" × 36"

Growing up on a small farm in Highland, Utah, Michael R. Workman (BFA ’86, MFA ’92) knew just what he wanted to do with his life: “Move to a rural area and paint the land. And I’ve been able to do exactly that.” Workman credits his BYU professors not only for teaching him the elements of art but for helping him believe he could make a living with his brush, which he does from his home in Spring City, Utah.

A man in his fifties with thinning gray hair and a beard wears glasses and a dark gray jacket as he looks at the camera.
Michael Workman

“I approach landscapes with a poetic sensibility,” says Workman, who paints in the early-morning or late-evening light. “I’m trying to subtly communicate the spiritual qualities of the land.” Citing artists as eclectic as Rothko and Van Gogh as influences, Workman feels a special kinship with the tonalist painter George Inness, who felt the world was a profoundly spiritual place. “I never set out to be a tonalist, but that is what I seem to be,” he says. His treatment of landscapes shows a reverence for the places and subjects he depicts: “I hope my faith and belief in something beyond this life come through.”

An oil painting of a cow laying on a field with a yellow tag on its ear, in the background are several cows with yellow tags as well.
Olympia, oil on wood, 48" × 48"

An oil painting of a Salt Lake City street crossing; from a bird's eye view you see a two sidewalks perpendicular, one going up and the other to the right. Two dead trees line the sidewalk going right and an empty parking lot sits behind them, followed by muted-colored buildings behind and a dusky blue sky above.
SLC/New Year’s Day, oil on wood, 36" × 36"

An oil painting of a Utah town that sits below the mountain. At the top half of the canvas, the mountain is a soft yellow-green covered in dark green trees. The houses, mostly white with peaked grey roofs, line the streets surrounded by wispy, dead trees.
Helper, oil on wood 48" × 48"

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