Mickey Cunningham

Minnesota, USA

Contemporary colorist landscapes, figures and still life artist

” The decisions about where and when to abstract or move from a recognizable object to just shape, color, or line intrigues me.”

Mickey Cunningham – Landscape and Still life!

I am an intuitive painter and prefer to work from life in a spontaneous manner.  Vibrant color and bold brushwork are hallmarks of my style.  I respond to the interaction of light and color in the real world by searching for equivalent sensations in paint.



At what age did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I moved when I was fifteen and entered a new high school.  The art teacher was a dynamic teacher who took an interest in me and encouraged me.  I knew then that I wanted to continue to study art. In college, I became a serious painter, but I also loved art history.  I pursued a master’s degree in art history after college.

What is the earliest artwork you did that you can remember?

I can remember three things I drew repeatedly as a child: a character face shaped like an hour glass, a puppy with big ears, and a fern insignia with my initials.  I grew up the youngest of eight children. The younger group of us had a game we called “business.” We each set up shops in our bedrooms and then visitied one another’s shops buying goods and services with Monopoly money.  I was always either a restaurant owner using my play dishes or an artist with my drawings pinned up around my room. My favorite shop to visit was the fortune teller. One of my siblings drew tarot cards, had a crystal ball made from an old lamp, and wore a towel turban

Which classical or contemporary artists have inspired you?

Peter Graham for his color and abstraction.  Richard Diebenkorn for his simplification. Louisa McElwain for her bold use of palette knife and thick paint.  Nicolai Fechin for his texture and brushwork. The Pennsylvania Impressionists, especially Fern Coppedge and Edward Redfield, for their great plein air work.  Bonnard and Vuillard for inventive composition and broken color.

How would you describe your artistic style?

I usually retain some discernible objects in my work whether it is a figure, still life, or landscape, but I like abstracting parts.  The decisions about where and when to abstract or move from a recognizable object to just shape, color, or line intrigues me.

When did you first sell an artwork? How did you feel?

It was in college to one of my art history professors.  I felt gratified.

What's your workstyle? Do you work on one piece at a time or work simultaneously on multiple pieces?

I work on many paintings at once.  Sometimes a painting moves along fairly quickly, and I can see it through in one session or a day.  Most of the plein air work I do is confined to one day. But more often I work on my paintings over the course of a few weeks.  Occasionally, I let them “rest” for months until I can resolve them.

How do you get the inspiration for a new piece?

From any number of places including: my own photographs, my own set ups, live models, inspiration from magazine clippings, art historical works, and simply from a random thought or idea.

Tell us a bit about your personal life ...

I grew up in southeastern PA and the Philadelphia area.  I attended Colby College in Maine and Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. I have lived in St. Cloud, MN for 27 years, and I am married to a philosophy professor.  We have two grown daughters on the east coast. One is a music composer and one works in Latin American advocacy. I was an adjunct college instructor both in writing and art for 18 years and before that a curator specializing in American art.  During the last 20 years, I continued to paint, but last spring I left teaching to pursue art full time

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” 
― Leonardo da Vinci

A few pieces from Mickey Cunningham’s gallery


A Golden Path

Why they love Mickey Cunningham’s art

Cyndy Blanton Easley

This painting is more beautiful and moving in person. Great lines and texture in this abstract figure study. It is an immediate favorite piece!!”

Suzanne Yester

Love the painting! Mickey is wonderful to work with! This is my second painting purchased from her and probably not my last! Very talented!”

More about Mickey Cunningham

Shows & Exhibitions

Grants Awarded

Artist’s Initiative Grant, Central Minnesota Arts Board, 2013
Individual Artist’s Grant, Central Minnesota Arts Board, 2012
Artist’s Initiative Grant, Minnesota State Arts Board, 2007

Invdividual Artist’s Grant, Central Minnesota Arts Board, 2004

Honorable Mention, Individual Artist’s Grant, Central Minnesota Arts Board, 2003

Artist’s Opportunity Grant, Minnesota State Arts Board, 2002

Prizes and Honors

Best of Show, “Essential Art,” Visual Arts MN, Jan. 2009

Third Place, “Art A La Carte,” Visual Arts MN, June 2008 and June 2007

Second Place, “Essential Art, Visual Arts MN, Jan. 2007

Juror, US Bank Community Art Show, St. Cloud, 2002-2008

Member of the St. Cloud Arts Commission, 2004-2006

First Place, “Ah Wilderness,” Paramount Arts District, St. Cloud, MN, 2002

Honorable Mention, Artists of Minnesota, April 2001

Selected Solo Exhibitions

“Food, Flowers, Figures,” Paramount Center for the Arts, St. Cloud, MN, February 2018
“Pentimento: The Past Lies Waiting,” Gallery Saint Germain, St. Cloud, MN, July-August 2015

“Shared Ground,” Paintings by Mickey Cunningham and Dede Leither, Target Gallery, St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN, Fall 2013
“Saturation: Paintings by Mickey Cunningham,” Great River Arts Association, Little Falls, MN, Oct.-Nov. 2010

Paramount Gallery, St. Cloud, MN, Featured Art Crawl Artist, June 2008

“Minnesota Landscapes by Mickey Cunningham,” Spirit of Life Gallery, St. Cloud, MN, June 2007

“Finding Form: Figure and Landscape Paintings by Mickey Cunningham,” College of Saint Benedict, Saint Joseph, MN, Oct.-Nov. 2003

“Paintings by Mickey Cunningham and Sculpture by Guest Artist Claudia Kraehling,” Paramount Arts District, St. Cloud, MN, Oct. – Nov. 2002

 Selected Juried and Group Exhibitions

“Paint the Towns,” Plein Air Exhibition, Plymouth, WI, Sept, 2018, Best of Historic Plymouth Award
Paramount Juried Exhibition, Gallery St Germain, St. Cloud, MN Oct.- Nov. 2016

“Bluff Strokes,” Plein Air Exhibition, Dubuque, IA, Oct. 2016, Historic Dubuque Award.

“Aitkin – Plein Air,” Jaques Art Center, Aitkin MN, July, 2016, Honorable Mention.

Plein Air Festival Exhibition, Eureka Springs School of the Arts, AK, Spring 2016

“Arts in Harmony 2011,” Elk River Area Arts Alliance, Elk River, MN, Jan.-Mar. 2011

“2006 Arrowhead Biennial,” Duluth Art Institute, Duluth, MN, Nov. 2006- Mar. 2007

“Art Perchance,” Minneapolis Institue of Art, Sept, 2005, 2006, 2007

“14th Annual Juried Exhibition, MacRostie Art Center, Grand Rapids, MN, Aug. 2006

“The Art of the Doll,” Pump House Regional Arts Center, La Crosse, WI, July-Aug. 2006

“Painting Aitkin en Plein Air,” Jacques Art Center, Aitkin, MN, July 2006

“Culture and Agriculture, New Visions Gallery, Marsfield, WI, May- July, 2006

“Mighty Midwest Biennial,” New Visions Gallery, Marshfield, WI, Dec. 2005 Jan. 2006

“Art a la Carte,” Paramount Arts District, St. Cloud, MN, Spring, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009

“Essential Art,” Paramount Arts District, St. Cloud, MN, Winter, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009

“The Figure Show,” Minnetonka Center for the Arts, Wayzata, MN, Winter, 2003