Art and Architecture: Mike Nesbit’s FLOOD


August 16th, 2017

Mike Nesbit, FLOOD, 2017, process view, 500 South 18th Street, Omaha, Nebraska. © Mike Nesbit
Studio, Los Angeles. Photo: Anna Finocchiaro. Courtesy Mike Nesbit Studio, Los Angeles

Omaha, NE—Mike Nesbit is an L.A. based architectural designer and visual artist whose newest exhibition, FLOOD, will show at Omaha’s Standard Oil building this Friday, hosted by the American Institute of Architecture. Nesbit was contacted by Ross Miller with the AIA, who discovered the artist’s work on social media. The two had initially planned a lecture with the intent to showcase some of Nesbit’s drawings, but over a year later, the project has become a full scale architectural installation.

Nesbit began a career in professional baseball but later studied at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. His current work unites visual art and architecture, combining drawing and painting aesthetics with large scale installation techniques and concrete canvases.

“More and more, it’s funny, I’ll just revisit what I used to do and understand the relationship of how I got to where I am, because if you told me that I’d be a fine artist—that I would be producing work in Omaha—if you would tell me that ten years ago, I would have said no way,” Nesbit said.

FLOOD began with small abstract paintings in which Nesbit focused on not the image, but the quality of the paint itself.

“There were certain moments when I would notice the paint have a thickness to it, maybe a thickness of a sixteenth of an inch. Look at that sixteenth of an inch, and I’d say you know, how do I get get that to a quarter inch. In thinking of how to get that quarter inch and then technique comes into mind. Ok, what’s the technique that I’m going to use to, let’s say, get that quarter inch and then I cut a piece of paper that was a quarter inch, I put it next to the paint and I would swipe the paint next to it and move the piece of paper that was a hard edge. So it gives me this kind of edge.”

The process eventually led to flooding the canvas by using stencils to achieve the desired thickness.

Nesbit calls the style Abstract Technical. Careful attention is given to measurements and materials, employing architectural skill and a construction team, but the images themselves remain aesthetically ambiguous.

Nesbit has also described the work as “simple complexity.”

“The simple part I would say is that the concept of swipe a flood. The complexity comes in the scale and the techniques the material that goes into kind of making these things.”

FLOOD, despite the labor put into it, does not demand too much of audiences.

“I’m more interested in people seeing the work for face value and kind of coming up with their own understanding of what they think it is. I think sometimes a single word is a good, maybe starter to get the viewer or someone in the mindset, but at the end of the day I really want people to enjoy the work for what it is and I think that’s what’s interesting about abstract work. There’s a certain playfulness a certain kind of childishness and imagination where I think you can kind of develop your own understanding of what it is.”

Nesbit’s work flirts with both the discipline of fine art and a sense of playfulness. Pieces equal the size and scope of academic art but their context rejects the formality of museums.

“You have these really overarching budgets that really only kind of serve a certain sector, I think, of the population and certain people who are able to engage the fine arts, but I think that there’s so much existing infrastructure. There’s so much existing infrastructure within urban environments that have been kind of overlooked and present really sublime surprise opportunities and moments for people to enjoy, in a way, to make something unexpected but really have the same type of work that could be in, let’s say the Broad or at the MET. But say no, actually we can make our own museum right here.”

In both his work and role as an artist, Nesbit acknowledges humility as a necessity.

“As serious as I take this, because I mean, this is something that I have to do, I also always like to recognize that just kind of —whatever—it’s important, interesting in that—I think it is like at the end of the day it’s it can be playful. Not to say that it doesn’t matter, because it does matter. It matters to me, but it’s important to be disciplined and it’s important to set certain kind of rules or parameters to your work, but at the same time it’s also good to recognize that it’s bullshit, and I think it’s important to step in and out of that. We tend to think that doing things the right way or a certain way is the right way, but a lot of times not really.”

Nesbit will give a lecture on his work at Gallery 1516 this Thursday, August 17 with doors opening at 6:00pm. FLOOD will open for one night, this Friday, August 18 at 6:00pm at the Standard Oil Building, 500S 18th Street. For more information, visit

Full Interview with Mike Nesbit Part 1

Part 2


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