Mike Goldberg

Mike Goldberg

San Francisco, CA, United States

About Mike Goldberg

Originally from Boston I spent more than 20 years in Manhattan and Brooklyn before moving to San Francisco.

Exploring the relationship between portraiture and memory.

At 22 years old, I was employed as a mental health counselor in a Boston area locked psychiatric unit. Responsible for more than 85 severely mentally ill patients struggling to survive, I became moved by their personal stories. Stories that no one would ever hear and would remain buried in this state institution.

Decades later, researching what had become of these patients only to come across their obituaries.

From the short descriptions that accompanied their tiny black and white newspaper photographs I was once again moved by their stories and became inspired by an idea as a way to express these untold stories through my art.

Looking at those obituary photos what was most present in my mind were the extreme scents and sounds from that time. The cigarette smoke, the smell of urine and human decay and the music from that era combined with the fact that the faces of those patients were slowly fading from my memory.

To illustrate what I was feeling I developed an interactive installation that demonstrated my concept.

I place my paintings, which are painted on wood in enclosed water tight plexiglass boxes which are filled with a solvent that dissolves the portrait in to pulp over a period of time.

Attached to the box is an iPod filled with sounds that are representative of the subject such as snippets of conversation or the rustling of wind or a piece of music. It is essentially a soundtrack.

Also attached to the plexiglass box is a small container filled with scents from the subjects life. It may be perfume, cigarette tobacco, coffee grinds or shredded leather from a worn motorcycle jacket. 

As the wooden portrait deteriorates all we are left with are the senses of scent and sound which can have a powerful impact.

These patients’ stories were as important as anyone else’s in the world. They lived difficult, yet full lives and had plenty to offer, yet their stories were lost. By creating this installation I’m building a homage to each individual respecting their contribution and their influence.

I paint on found wood with oil bars using my hands to work the paint into the wood highlighting the texture. More psychological profile than portrait, my style is raw and visceral.


Boston University BA Psychology
School of Visual Arts New York
Private Study-Robert Cormier Portrait artist


Current: Wine Kitchen Gallery San Francisco


Art works downtown San Rafael Ca through August 5 2014
Solo Show First Person Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Solo Show, Small Stories, Elsewhere Gallery, Fairfax, CA 
Publication, Studio Visit Magazine, Volume 18.  Two paintings featured
Group Show The Spring Street Studios, New York, NY
Group Show The Copley Society, Boston, MA