Michael Ezzell

'Inferno on the Mantel'

Drawing imagery and symbolism from mythology, folklore, and antiquity, Michael Ezzell (B.F.A., illustration, 2014) creates delicately rendered paintings in a subtle palette. Inferno on the Mantel includes Ezzell’s most recent work, which features the Grecian vessel as its primary subject. Through this potent object with rich historical significance, the artist playfully investigates aesthetic interests including positive and negative space, reflection, and coupling. His compositions cleverly negotiate pictorial space, as objects weave incongruously between planes or act as windows to other realms.

signature image for Michael Ezzel exhibition
Michael Ezzell, "Labyrinth," 2022, acrylic on panel, 36 x 36 in. Courtesy of the artist.

The works on view are presented against a dreamy, hand-painted cloudscape — a recurring motif — created specifically for the exhibition. Each image is likewise contained within an elegant painted frame, a compositional strategy that nods to ornamental architectural facsimiles found throughout the history of painting. Combining these elements, Ezzell defines a surreal language anchored in mythological, art historical, and decorative sources, ultimately creating narratives that examine theories of existence.

About the artist

A painter and printmaker based in Providence, R.I., Michael Ezzell explores the philosophies of existence and the self through esoteric symbolism and surrealism, weaving stories and imagery from mythology into new narratives and worlds. Ezzell has recently expanded his practice into large-scale murals, welcoming the opportunity to reach broader audiences through public art. He has worked with organizations including The Avenue Concept, Blick Art Materials, and Frog & Toad, where he is a studio designer and head screen printer, creating designs for apparel, accessories, and collaborative work with local nonprofits.

Install Views


Inferno on the Mantel is organized by SCAD Museum of Art associate curator Ben Tollefson.

More on view