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Best Artist Houston 2010 - Michael Bise

Readers' Choice: Give Up

For his solo exhibition "Holy Ghosts!" at Moody Gallery, Bise, an atheist, delivered an apocalyptic series of drawings based on his own experiences growing up in a radically religious family. It might have been easy to interpret some sort of political agenda or bitterly judgmental attack lurking in Bise's subject matter, but rather than exorcising childhood demons, Bise's confessional tone revealed a benevolence and tolerant acceptance of the belief system he would eventually discard. In all of Bise's drawings, the detail is unbelievable — the textures and patterns on clothing, the hairstyles, the jewelry. The most impressive work, Revival, depicted an ecstatic tent-revival scene of 100women engulfed in an evangelical frenzy. And Bise gave us personal sketches of childhood rites, both disturbing and compassionate. At one moment, we felt sympathy for Bise's cartoon-nightmare doomsday visions and the corporal punishment he received in religion's name. At others, we empathized with the disappointment parents feel when their children engage in repulsive acts. Bise's brave series of drawings opened a childhood rabbit hole and dared us to fall in with him.

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