Michael Carini is an artistic genius. Brilliant works that “illuminate the human condition” showcase extraordinary talent and ferocious tenacity. Fueled by hardship, the Point Loma native art serves as a guiding light; a source of warmth and comfort for those struggling to find their way.
“I know what searching for a safe place feels like,” he said. “My art gives people a reason – and a way – to find their voice.”
Abstract paintings – Carini’s acrylic alchemy – are based on principles of “equivalent exchange.” Struggles become creations of everything positive and beautiful. While aesthetically pleasing the art is derived from a deep introspection of life’s difficulties; darkness and vulnerability are juxtaposed to light and perseverance.
Simple mottos of encouragement “manifest” hope. “I knew I could so I did,” he paints. “I was born into a world that had no place for me, so I created my own.”
Sporting a life riddled with bruises, the 34-year old understands the importance of never giving up.
“I can pull myself up with no one at the bottom helping,” he said. “I may think about quitting, but I’m a fighter. I prepare for the worst-case scenario, although I welcome rhythm and balance. My path may never be easy. But easy things are not always worthwhile.”
Carini’s misfortune punctuations began young. Barely a year old when his father died in a “car accident,” he later discovered that he’d been lied to. His father had actually committed suicide on his mother’s 21st birthday. The grieving son painted “Michael’s Note,” the suicide-note his father never left.
Since childhood, art has served as Carini’s voice, “to communicate with a world I didn’t understand.” Despite teachers requesting to purchase his art projects at Sacred Heart Academy in Ocean Beach, an artistic career was never considered possible.
“According to everyone, art was for children,” he said. “But art was who I was.”
The first in his family to attend college, Carini “grinded for everything,” supplementing scholarships and grants by working three jobs, including the trash shift at Vons.
“I woke up at 5 AM, rollerbladed to work in the dark to dispose soiled meat – deemed too disgusting and gross for the homeless – into the dumpster,” he said.
The artiste graduated magna cum laude from Loyola Marymount University – Los Angeles – with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Art. Touting a Scholar of Distinction Award in painting, he moved home, despite advice to the contrary.
“I was told that San Diego’s art community wasn’t as strong as it could be,” he said. “Feeling, responsible, I returned to make that happen.”
Carini’s art-success and art-on-pause has been cyclical. Successful enough to pay his student loans years before they were due, “moving work to subsidize living costs isn’t always easy.”
“It’s not about being rich, it’s about having the resources to be an artist,” he said. “I’ve been backed into a corner left to sink or swim; give up or use what I have, no matter how little that may be.”
With no resources to paint, Carini once kept his dreams and ambitions alive through a 10-dollar journal, a brush and black paint. Working with practically “nothing,” he even showcased art on recycled materials, “what people considered trash.” Even a violent assault that resulted in multiple facial fractures, a concussion, and severe eye trauma, gave birth to his logo.
“My logo was derived from what I saw flashing in my head during the concussion,” he said.
During flight or fight periods, the self-described introvert fits pieces together, “working to make things work while clearly articulating what I need to move forward at the right time to the right place.
“When things aren’t going according to plan, I shift the plan,” he said. “I may not move forward, but I won’t move backward either. I’ll hold on long enough to figure something out.”
Carini acknowledges that social media has positively altered the ability to showcase his work. But he also recognizes the “one-second glimpse, click-to-like, and move on,” as a pitfall in a world oversaturated with “snapshots of success and reduced attention spans, with little time for reflection and even less for rejection.” To prove this, he posted a 13-year rejection from a juried painting exhibit to exemplify “important things take time.”
Carini also works full-time at Point Loma’s FastSigns to “invest in my art as a business.” He underscores the importance of artists supporting artists through referrals and product collaborations, especially in a market as “tough” as San Diego.
“Balanced reciprocity will benefit all parties as we move to create a better future,” he said.
The gifted icon remains committed to community give back.
“For those lacking the fortitude, I’m obligated and committed to be source of light,” he concluded. “People often look for inspiration in external things, but inspiration is internal. You have to grab it. It’s always there.”