Michal Luch Onyon was raised in a family of talented artists. Both her parents were accomplished designers and painters who worked for the Church, her sister works in stained glass, and her daughter and nephew are accomplished artists and performers. For example, her mother illustrated the Children’s Songbook. I lived with her nephew, Bryan Hernandez-Luch, on my mission and he would regale me with stories of his family that made them seem, to me, like the Royal Tenenbaums of Mormon art. Onyon received a BFA from the University of Utah and began oil painting several years ago after a career in illustration and graphic design. She adds, “My hobby has been pleine aire watercolors done on almost every vacation for 25 years. I think all these past experiences help me as I discover that painting encompasses more than a lifetime of challenges and ideas. It is a timeless feeling to escape everyday life by trying capture and reinvent from a world so much bigger and varied than we can imagine.”
Growing up in a family of artists how did you find your style and voice? Like the cartoon of a man with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, I have a family art jury sitting on mine. One side is the critique, the other encouragement. It has taken a while to get past such talented parents. I may never be as excellent as them. I pretend not to care or that I am not as invested to avoid that critical voice. Ultimately, you build on your own passions, strengths and accomplishments. I see the influence of both parents in my work and it is exciting to me. I can say, “Mom was here…she loved patterns and nature” or “my father is coming through with his bold sense of structure” You mature and know what you love and can appreciate the influences that flow through you.
How did you get to the point that you could make a living with your art? I hate to tell you. I am not feeding a family on my artwork. There are some smart choices I made in the past so that I have the liberty of painting now. I worked as a graphic designer on logos, catalogs and t-shirts for more than 25 years. I was a window display artist and made plein aire watercolors for more years. I married a hard working man who is generous and lets me do what I want (as long as I make dinner). I paint endless hours with a desire to become good despite little monetary reward. I am a terrible business woman, but… I am busy in my studio.
Your parents were both artists for the Church. How would you evaluate the Church’s relationship to art today? I think the LDS church is proud of its artists, especially if they create predictable pictures of church subjects. It is impressive to see that a culture can produce accomplished people. So if you can get well known you are a shining example of “We are Mormons”. I do not feel like there is any social or doctrinal support or encouragement to women who work to get there. Like the general culture, there is little understanding of the individual who creates art and their need for self expression or respect for the time it takes.