Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky

Michelle "Mike" Ochonicky

Artist Statement: I love both history and art. Scrimshaw provides a prime link, finding its origins with 18th-19th century American sailors. I use only environmentally-friendly materials: recycled piano keys, cow bone and deer antler—materials that might otherwise go to waste. My work is done the old way: I draw each piece by freehand, painstakingly etch each line, adding ink when finished. I strive for a purity of line, with each line important to the whole. I find inspiration in the details of nature: animals and plants.

Perhaps more than other mediums, scrimshaw summons—demands!—close study. In a world so bombarded by supersizing, by big, loud “stuff,” it is calming to concentrate on what is small, what is so often overlooked. Every detail is critical to my compositions. Such study requires a sense of peace and sensitivity. After all, art comes from the hand and the heart.

The simplicity of this traditional artform appeals to me: there is no color to distract from the actual work. The viewer sees only the lines. It’s clean and straightforward…..and I like that. No room for indecision; once a line is cut, it is permanent.

My art has taken me all over the world: I was invited by the Missouri Governor’s office and the National Parks Foundation to design and create the ornaments for the National Christmas Tree display in Washington, D.C. in 2010-16. My work has been displayed in the White House Visitor Center, the Missouri Capitol Rotunda, the Missouri Governor’s Mansion, St. Louis Cathedral Basilica, and remains in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institute and the Dedalo Museum of Contemporary Art in Italy. A panel of museum curators assembled from America’s most prestigious institutions by Early American Life magazine selected my scrimshaw for the exclusive Directory of Traditional American Crafts 24 times. My work was projected in New York’s Times Square as part of the Artist Wanted project and in Paris, France for the Art Takes Paris exhibition. Three of my works were selected for a 5-city touring exhibition in Germany. I am a proud member of the BuyMissouri initiative and a juried member of The Best of Missouri Hands, where I served as vice president, 3-term president and eventually as the Executive Director of that organization. Most recently, I was the Executive Director of Missouri Citizens for the Arts (statewide arts advocacy organization) and Missouri’s State Captain for Americans for the Arts. I remain Arts Editor for The Healthy Planet magazine, where I write a monthly column on the arts, and I teach studio painting at a local college.

Artist Discipline: Scrimshaw

Artist Business/Gallery Announcements:

In addition to my scrimshaw, I also work in oils–mostly just for gallery exhibitions and for clients. Two of my paintings are currently in highly juried exhibitions that can be viewed virtually:

GLOBAL IMPACT (through September 25), featuring my work, “Lowtide” http://www.foundryartcentre.org/global-impact

THIS MOMENT (through September 15), featuring my work, “Out of Rosendale” https://www.artstlouis.org/index.php/exhibitions/in-the-gallery/thismoment


Visit Michelle "Mike" Ochonicky's Website

Artist Portfolio

  • B-Stone-Hollow-Studio



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  • Vino-mirror



  • Angel-at-Sea-box



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