"I don't use Photoshop or filters on these images. I used those tools a lot back in my old career. As part of trying to do things within limitations, sometimes I experiment with lots of things to try to get something interesting in the shots.
This one involved a mason jar, flowers and leaves that were beginning to dry, and a big mess of water I had to clean up after."
-Michael Van Huffel
Prints are produced on demand on either mounted canvas, acrylic plexi, or giclee fine art paper in a variety of sizes here in the United States. High quality print reproductions for your home or office designed by artists living with homelessness or disabilities.
Santa Cruz, CA
“I was in a tough state prior to this photography project. It brought an unexpected and deep relationship, and finally feeling productive again. Since I started, I feel much less like I am disappearing and it's given me much hope for a real future.”
Michael Van Huffel enjoyed a successful career as an artist, animator, Creative Director, and musician. His career got a jumpstart when he began working with the musician Prince, as a staff artist, and eventually Art Director. He also has also worked in motion design, TV and movies, and served as Creative Director for numerous projects in advertising and entertainment.
In 2007, Michael unexpectedly developed Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS) a devastating and poorly-understood neuroimmune condition. Michael began to face loss after loss. Unable to work and eventually housebound, his career, home, and the life he had built were all lost due to hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical co-pays. Life became very different and solitary for Michael. He relocated to a one-room studio outside San Francisco, and has been taking part in the largest-yet studies on his disease at Stanford. That room became his de-facto art studio.
Michael describes that his life for 8 years turned into a very isolated existence, that most relationships had become virtual, except for home infusion nurses and very occasional visitors. The most recent transformation in his art career, and what you see featured on ArtLifting, occurred when he received an iPhone on a family plan, and an artist friend suggested they start a photo-a-day project. Michael describes that “this became a search to find beautiful or interesting things within an apartment that had only been accumulating painful associations using numerous physical and technical limitations as a means to a unique style and meaning. This also unexpectedly led to a relationship, a partner—something that had long seemed a lost part of life.” Micheal and this friend, Belén, were married last year.
The past year has brought some big life changes. He got married and relocated to Santa Cruz, which hopefully will provide some housing stability and safety. He also looks forward to getting involved in the vibrant Santa Cruz arts community. Michael can occasionally get outside for short walks and is now close to a lot of natural beauty. Nearly all of the photos use things he collects while out, and brings back to photograph when he is feeling well enough. The photos are often expressionistic—an attempt to make things look like something other than what they are—such as paintings, sea creatures, or a landscape. He aims to convey an emotion, feeling, and find interesting corners of his world through the photographs.
To learn more about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS), please visit the Open Medicine Foundation and follow the groundbreaking study mentioned in Michael’s bio. In addition, see the multiple award-winning documentary, Unrest, created by a woman living with the disease.
Michael can occasionally get outside for short walks. Nearly all of the photos use things he collects while out, and brings back to photograph when he is feeling well enough. The photos are often expressionistic—an attempt to make things look like something other than what they are—such as paintings, sea creatures, or a landscape. He aims to convey an emotion, feeling, and find interesting corners of his world through the photographs.
ArtLifting empowers artists impacted by homelessness or disabilities through the celebration and sale of their artwork. Learn more here.