While Michael Killen may have arrived in California as a computer scientist — thanks to recruitment efforts by Menlo Park-based SRI — today he identifies himself as an artist.
“I’m an artist who is taking advantage of all my experiences, which include successes and failures,” he said in an interview in advance of his opening reception at Cafe Borrone, where his paintings are on exhibit along with Harry Cohen’s work, in a show called Bathtubs, Bathtubs Everywhere, which runs through May 27.
For the current exhibit, Michael credits Janet Larson, who’s involved with the Woodside-Atherton Garden Club and who’s particularly interested in the Save the Bay efforts to restore the wetlands where there are currently salt ponds, which are slated for development by Cargill/DMB.
“She asked me if I’d be willing to make a painting for Save the Bay and donate it,” Michael recalled. “I do love the Bay and said ‘fine.’ From there my interest really kicked in, and the next thing I knew she was suggesting an exhibit at Cafe Borrone. She was very persuasive, saying it would be good for me and good for Save the Bay.”
The connection to fellow artist Harry Cohen goes back many years, according to Michael, whose studio is at his Menlo Park home. “He kept looking at my early work and told me ‘I want to make a painting with you,'” Michael said. “This was a great honor as he is a master artist. The first painting was Threat to the Three Graces of the Bay. We paint together regularly now. I come way with some of his experiences and skills every time.”
One of the paintings they did together is also called Bathtubs Bathtubs Everywhere (above). The exhibit brochure explains: “If Cargill and developer DMB succeed in their plan to develop the salt ponds east of 101 in Redwood City, Harry and Michael envision installing 12,000 bathtubs there — an area stretching from Woodside Road to Marsh Road. Supplying the new ‘City on the Bay’ (Saltworks?) with water is a problem because there is no water source on the site. Cargill and DMB have considered a water transfer from Kern County and a desalination plant, but no matter the solution, city tax payers will take a bath bearing the long-term expenses. Why not just restore the salt ponds to their original wetlands?”
Michael is pleased with the reaction to the show, both from Cafe Borrone customers and employees. “People tell me they are touched by it,” said the artist, who is now working on a series of paintings around the themes “End of the Internal Combustion Engine” and “Social Media.”