All artist Michael Carini really wants is to have a conversation.
Carini - who identifies himself artistically as an "acrylic alchemist" - uses his art to deal with his own life struggles, but his larger hope is that it, too, helps others deal with theirs.
"I'm hoping they can find something that can engage them," Carini said recently during an interview at ArtWalk at Liberty Station. "It isn't easy living a life where you feel vulnerable all the time. My hope is that in my work, people begin to have a self-awareness and begin to open up a dialogue - for them to know that it's OK to share our struggles."
That's the impetus for Carini's current exhibit, "Reign Upon Sonrise: A Five Year Healing, Meditation and Rebirth," on display at the Martha Pace Swift Gallery at Liberty Station through Sept. 22. An artist's reception will be held Friday from 5-8 p.m. as part of Friday Night Liberty at Liberty Station.
"A lot of my work is inspired by struggles," Carini, 33, said. "I've always struggled throughout my life."
He's battled physical and mental health issues, and in 2012, found himself on the verge of becoming homeless. Thanks to a residency at Alexander Salazar Fine Art, he began to bounce back.
"Alex and I had been in touch before, and he had known that I was struggling," Carini recalled. "On my birthday - April 9 - there I was sitting on an abandoned couch in Morley Field. Sitting there shirtless, I thought that basically that this is how it's going to be. The phone rang, and it was Alex. The next day, I was in the studio, working and creating as much possible, for the next two months, working 15 hours a day.
"I was given this opportunity," he said, "and I had to make a miracle happen. I didn't have a job, so this was my chance for a comeback."
For 50 days and 500 hours, Carini created art.
"My goal has always been to use my work to take negatives and transform them into something positive and inspirational," said Carini, who grew up in Point Loma and now lives in University Heights.
In August 2012, he reconnected with family he never knew and found out more about his biological father, also named Michael, who apparently committed suicide when Carini was 1 year old. He was told he'd been killed in an auto accident. That revelation - and the soul-searching that came with it - planted the seeds for "Reign Upon Sonrise."
"Reign Upon Sonrise: A Five Year Healing, Meditation and Rebirth"
When: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Sept. 22
Where: Martha Pace Swift Gallery, Arts District Liberty Station, 2820 Roosevelt Road, Point Loma
"After doing the residency, I had done some meticulous work and stretched myself thin mentally," said Carini, who graduated with degrees in studio arts and art history from Loyola Marymount in 2006. "I have a driven and passionate personality where it's hard for me to let things go."
Conceiving "Reign Upon Sonrise" "was about letting go of my past and my traumas. ... my father's suicide while dealing with my own personal issues with suicide. I had never known this about my biological father. For a father and son to almost have the same fate, it was a powerful thing to think about."
At the age of 28, Carini embarked on an artistic project that became "Reign Upon Sonrise."
"It was imperative in 2012 that I finish in 2017 at the age 33 ... because I come from a Catholic background," he recalled, alluding to the age Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected three days later. "At the age of 33, this was about a son being reborn."
The exhibit opens with "Michael's Note" - "the suicide note that my father never left," Carini said.
The postscript: "Dedicated to the father I never had the honor and privilege to know."
"It's written through his eyes with my hands. It's his suicide note but also mine - about me letting go and putting to death that side of my past," Carini said.
Besides the note, the exhibit features 49 pieces, and "it doesn't really matter where it begins or ends. It's a circle you're always surrounded by, and you can appreciate it on many levels. ... We exist on many levels of complexity ... . Each of the pieces is a painting and has its own meaning, but as a group, it completely changes the meaning. It's really a project to get a dialogue going."