Artist Of The Week: Michael the III alias Mike Rinaldi! An Interview

A couple of weeks ago KALTBLUT posted an editor’s pick on Mike Rinaldi. We kept following his work and came across his Instagram account, on which he posts selfies of the character Michael the III. Being such a fan of his work, we had to interview Mike!
Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 10.18.03 PM
KALTBLUT: Hi Mike! Tell us a bit about yourself, what do you do, what’s your zodiac sign?
Mike: Hello! I’m a Canadian artist/graphic designer/illustrator. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to art, but in life I tend to leave everything disarrayed and it’s hard to keep my apartment tidy for more than a day. I enjoy dissecting and commenting on pop culture. I love excess and I admire a strong sense of self so perhaps it’s unsurprising that I am a huge Beyoncé fan. My zodiac sign is Cancer, and I think I embody it pretty well. My rising, Sun and Moon are all in Cancer so I’m pretty true to that sign. I like to cuddle.
Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 10.17.50 PM
KALTBLUT: We’re such a fan of your work! How did you get into art?
Mike: Art has always been a consistent part of my life. I was the kid in school who was good at art. Sports were never my thing. I think when you find something at a young age you’re good at and are really interested in you naturally move closer towards it as you build years of practice and devotion. I won a colouring contest at a bank once and that demonstrated the power art can have from a purely monetary example. If you can make art that someone really likes, you can get a teddy bear.
This likely set me on a path to find a way to mix art with commerce, leading me to graphic design and illustration. When I think about what probably got me this prize – instead of colouring the sky a solid colour I decided to add a new backdrop – it’s funnily similar to my Instagram concept. But that’s probably coincidence.
Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 10.17.41 PMx
KALTBLUT: Can you tell us a bit about the project Michael the III ?
Mike: It is a series of self-portraits that explore the phenomenon and implications of selfies, sexuality and whether fantasy on social media can create a reality. The way I do this is by mixing photos of myself over a new, unrealistic and exaggerated backdrop. The result is something that is both true and false. For some he’s just a sex symbol and the social commentary doesn’t matter. I’m not getting off on my own body, so what interests me is the process and results of exaggerating a selfie and what happens when you commit to just that. In doing so I am winking at the camera while also using the powerful image of the self to my own advantage. I find it fascinating that despite their reputation, selfies are usually the most successful posts on someone’s Instagram. There must be a desire to see or know someone on their own terms, even when it is someone you may never meet. Michael the III does not reveal much about himself though. He exists in a variety of environments which if they were real, would comment on his lifestyle, but since they are fantasy, he remains mysterious, not a person you can truly know. At the same time, he is me and I try to add a human quality to the captions and in my interaction with comments.
Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 1.49.08 PMx Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 1.49.38 PM
KALTBLUT: Is he like anything like you?
Mike: Not really. If I were not specifically creating each image/world, I would not be interested in posting self-portraits so frequently. At the same time, he’s a highly exaggerated version of myself and exists in an alternate space, namely Instagram but also the internet in general. He represents some of my worst qualities, like vanity, which is something we all have inside us but are too vain to admit it. He also represents myself at my most glamorous, which isn’t indicative of how we always look in real life. The personality you’d expect Michael the III to have is also different than that of Mike Rinaldi. I think my friends can see that but other people may expect me to be a bit more aggressive, brooding and outgoing.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 10.17.31 PMxScreen Shot 2015-07-25 at 1.49.46 PMx
KALTBLUT: Where do you take your inspiration from?
Mike: I like looking at vintage Playboys. I hate the misyogny it supports but in the photos themselves I really like concept of being naked in so many different and often silly scenarios. I also am really inspired in my illustration work by J.C. Leyendecker and I suppose even my Instagram takes cues from the glorification of subjects he did on the cover of The Saturday Evening Posts. I’m inspired by cultural language, like that of internet where we set our own rules. It’s fascinating to see how in a world with little natural order there are still standards and patterns of communication, like memes.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 10.17.18 PMxScreen Shot 2015-07-25 at 1.49.54 PMx
KALTBLUT: What are your thoughts about using sex as a medium for art/promotion?
Mike: I’m a big fan of the sexually overt. It’s something that needs to be destigmatized. Sex is probably the most intriguing thing about life so I am very comfortable using it and I encourage everyone else to do so if they want. It’s much easier to use sex for artistic rather than promotional purposes though. People are quicker to judge when you stand to benefit, and perhaps it feels less authentic when you’re clearly selling something. But sex sells. So does comedy. So do jingles. So do puppies. So do innovative commercials. In my opinion it comes down to how you execute it, but sex alone is not classless. How could that made up concept of class describe sexuality? Sex is natural and part of the human condition and so should always have a place in art.
Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 10.25.51 PMxScreen Shot 2015-07-25 at 1.50.05 PM
KALTBLUT: On your Facebook you comment ‘for some the glass is just too shiny to see through’, could you elaborate on that fact?
Mike: This comment was a reaction to some of the criticism I was seeing about my Instagram, namely the criticism that what I’m doing is vapid or narcissistic. It struck me odd that people were using those words as a way to critique it, because those are the same words I would use to describe it. It wasn’t accidental that the feed looks narcissistic. You may not like it because of that, just as you may not like Goya’s work because it’s dark, but someone whose only critique is labelling a work exactly what the artist is trying to convey suggests to me that they are distracted by the surface to think deeper about what it could mean. After that if you don’t like it, that’s fine. The project is not meant to be serious, it’s no Goya by any means, so I don’t take negative comments too seriously.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 10.25.58 PMxScreen Shot 2015-07-25 at 1.50.15 PMx

KALTBLUT: Do you think we are more narcissist than 10 years back because of the selfie?

Mike: I think that the human condition doesn’t change from generation to generation, but that social changes bring out different aspects of how we interact with the world and today we have more opportunities to display narcissism. I don’t think people who take selfies are narcissists as much as the selfie-detractors are drama queens. Selfies aren’t that problematic and are part of our digital language. We communicate and share information about ourselves through them. People act like they are the downfall of our society. It’s just one (albeit superficial) way of expressing oneself. If that’s all you do then maybe you have a problem (Michael the III definitely has one) but I really believe it says more about you if you hate selfies than if you love them. If you love selfies you’re likely loving other people’s as well and so it’s not as self-centred as it seems.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 10.26.12 PMxScreen Shot 2015-07-25 at 1.52.53 PM
KALTBLUT: What are you working on at the moment / future plans ?
Mike: I’m always working on new posts, but also I have a bunch of upcoming illustration projects which I’m happy to be working on. My Instagram is fun to create but I really enjoy creating a completely new world through illustration.