Mike Ousley is a native of Southeastern Kentucky and grew up in Floyd County. The experience of a life in the mountains has shaped the attitudes that inform his painting practice. “I grew up in the small and very isolated Mudlick Branch Hollow, in Hippo, Kentucky. I played in the woods, creeks, and up and down the roads in this holler and that one. I was always surrounded by unique stories and character’s from a very young age and I credit those folks for a great deal of inspiration.
“As a student I remember walking past the Kentucky Folk Art Center everyday. I became mesmerized by the visionary artwork inside and how it seemed to be inextricably bound to the culture of Eastern Kentucky. I also became influenced by a very thriving Appalachian Art’s community in Morehead. I found inspiration through storytellers, old-time fiddler’s, wood carver’s and others. My approach to painting has remained rooted in my local folk culture and folklore. In staying rooted within the culture of Southern Appalachia, I consider myself to be a folk artist.
“I view my paintings as picture ballads of my rural home in Southeastern Kentucky. Stories and tales of folklore from the gritty Coal Camp towns where I grew up. Love songs to the downtrodden and forgotten people of an isolated but fiercely resourceful and proud culture. I seek to blend the commonplace and quaint aspects of Appalachian culture with uncanny elements. Sometimes simply the unexpected, or perhaps the supernatural folklore of Haints or Boogers. All the way, I’m seeking to grow a greater understanding and to promote the unique culture and people of Southern Appalachia.”