Though Michael Ward calls his art “Obsurd,” his illustrations actually help him make sense of the world around him.
“My art is called ‘obsurd’ and obsurd means to be questioned,” Ward told Madison365. “The only person that has the answers is you.”
Just hours after being born, Ward and his family were involved in a car accident on their way home from the hospital which resulted in Ward being diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The diagnosis left Ward growing up with questions about his own identity and place in the world and through art, he found the answers.
“Growing up some people are ashamed of their disability,” he said. “But my mother told me, growing up, everybody has a disability. Mine is just on the outside while others’ is on the inside.”
The child of two artists, Ward has been creating since h was a young child and finally decided to go public with his work in high school.
He sold some of his work in his native city of Harlem, but he didn’t feel like his work was really received until he moved to Madison five years ago.
“Being in New York, sure my art was appreciated, but as being somebody from New York, everybody is trying to fight for that one position,” Ward said. “But I sold three or four pieces in New York, but I never had my artwork seen like as how it is right here. I’m loving it.”
Since moving to Madison, Ward has had his work displayed at the Urban League, Overture Center, Madison Children’s Museum, and City Hall.
Ward’s art is abstract, reminiscent of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Pablo Picasso.
In addition to visual prints, Ward also creates apparel, greeting cards, and his newest venture, an urban coloring book.
The coloring book is intended to make Ward’s message of acceptance and self-definition more accessible to everyone.
“People might not be able to afford a picture, but they can take something with them,” he said. “You know, because I remember me being that guy thinking, ‘wow, this painting is good, and it’s speaking to me in a different way, but how much money is it?’”
The coloring book features and old illustrations by Ward accompanied by written words describing each photo from his point of view.
“The coloring book is geared towards the kind of people with disabilities, in terms of capability,” he said. “Just as it helped me, I feel like I’m reaching out and helping others in giving back to my community, serving. This is something that would do other people justice and good.”
Ward says drawing and coloring gave him a way to communicate and he hopes it does that same for others.
Ward hopes that the book and his other art can make its way into schools and into the hands of differently-abled youth to empower them with a voice.
“I want to give people the outlook of turning a disability into a capability,” he said.