Michael Bise is no stranger to life intertwining with art -- his graphite drawings are highly autobiographical, drawing on his parents' relationship and his childhood.
Now, the two come together again just when he needs it the most.
Bise, 35, was born with congenital heart failure, and is currently on the waiting list to get a new heart. On Sunday, Moody Gallery is throwing a benefit for the artist at the Boom Boom Room to help with his mounting medical bills.
"My own heart, failing since birth, has finally become too weak to sustain the survival of my kidneys and liver," Bise wrote on Glasstire, to which he is a frequent contributor. "For now, I get along much like I always have, with a certain amount of fatigue and casual resilience, but the troubling increase in the numerical values of my creatinine and the palpable swelling of my liver indicate to my cardiologist that within a year or two I will likely die without a new heart."
Bise's chances are good -- where he is on the list, he could get a new heart in as little as three weeks, up to three months. But while he waits, his medical bills are piling up. When you factor in the surgery, medication and living expenses during his recovery, he could be looking at more than $50,000 in the first year -- all of which he's paying for out of pocket.
To that end, the folks behind Moody Gallery decided to help, putting out a call for donations earlier last month and now planning Sunday's benefit, which will feature music by The Cleaners and Guests.
The gallery has been representing Bise since he graduated from the University of Houston in 2005 with a Master's of Fine Arts. (Bise's girlfriend, Adrian Page, is also an assistant director at the gallery.) Its curators were quite taken with his highly detailed, almost obsessive drawings, which draw in his Pentecostal upbringing and his own father's death from heart failure, and they have hosted an impressive four shows in six years.
"They were just so raw in a way, it was something that was very different from other artists we represented," said Moody Assistant Director Lee Steffy of Bise's graphite drawings. "He's such a fine craftsman, it's what caught our eyes and continued to hold our attention all these years."
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Even as his energy levels have slowed down these past few months, causing him to pause his job as an art professor at the University of Houston until after he's recovered from his heart transplant, Bise hasn't stopped drawing. He's been drawing smaller works, as well as continuing to contribute to Glasstire with a brutally honest comic inspired by his "life on the list."
His recent creative output, as well as the calls for help, have brought an outpouring of support from Houston's art community that Steffy hopes to see in full effect on Sunday.
"I'm so proud of this community and I'm so proud to be a part of it," said Steffy. "I'm just in awe of how generous people are and how big their hearts are. It's a really nice arts community."
The benefit for Michael Bise is at the Boom Boom Room, 2518 Yale, December 11 at 7 p.m. Donations in any amount will be taken at the door. If you are unable to make the event but would like to contribute, you can do so at www.michaelwbisejr.org.