Michael "Mick" Jilg

Magician by Mick Jilg

Michael “Mick” Jilg (American, b. 1947)


Acrylic on canvas

78 x 84 in

Mick Jilg approaches the creative process in a manner he calls “stream-of-consciousness,” often embarking on projects with only a vague concept and allowing imagination, intuition, and a keen understanding of basic design principles to take over. Magician, which began its life as a charcoal drawing and evolved into a large, colorful triptych, exemplifies Jilg’s desire always to “achieve a balance between boredom and chaos.” A ghostly female figure, with closed eyes, raised hands, and strands of long, dark hair threaded between her splayed fingers, occupies the center of the middle panel. Around, above, and behind her, jostling for the viewer’s attention, Jilg presents a prismatic, eclectic assortment of imagery. Areas of inky darkness peppered with bright specks evoke the star-dusted void of outer space, suggesting depth, but elsewhere pigment lies flat upon the canvas surface. Crisp geometric shapes jostle with silhouetted plant, animal, and human forms; seashells, fragments of stenciled text, and a trio of disembodied hands (traced from the artist’s own) drift within this same cluttered pictorial space, unanchored from any unifying narrative. With its curious, captivating blend of diverse visual elements, Magician leaves it up to the viewer to tease out some sense of meaning or story, which is just the way Jilg likes it. Speaking on the occasion of a 40-year career retrospective, Jilg said, “it’s amazing what people see in my paintings that I had no idea about.”


A self-confessed “bad student” in high school, Great Bend, Kansas, native Mick Jilg entered Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, in 1965, finding inspiration and encouragement among the fine arts faculty there. After receiving his MFA from Wichita State University in 1972, Jilg discovered a passion for drawing the human figure, prompting a shift away from the pure abstraction of his graduate-student work. Jilg served as a professor of painting at FHSU between 1981 and 2011, receiving the Kansas Governor’s Artist Award in 1991. Since retiring, Jilg has organized and participated in exhibitions in Kansas cities including Hays, Manhattan, McPherson, Garden City, and Lindsborg. His art resides in the collection of the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska.

— Melinda Narro, MA student in art history at the University of Kansas, April 2019

KU School of Business Art Collection