Michael J. Pearce

Michael J. Pearce, Ph.D., MFA


Office Hours: T / Th 3.30 - 6.00


Professor Michael Pearce joined the CLU Art Department full-time in 2005, having previously served as an adjunct professor in 2001. He's an accomplished oil painter, installation designer, and an award-winning theatrical scenic designer. He says teaching painting and drawing to CLU students is the most rewarding job of his life. He is passionate about figurative painting. In 2018 his "Secret Paintings" exhibit completed a tour that crossed the United States, gaining excellent reviews. 

In 2012 he founded and chaired The Representational Art Conference, (TRAC) the first of a series of important international cultural events designed to provide an academic platform for the discussion of 21st Century representational art. 

In addition to his scholarly work, Michael J. Pearce is actively involved in contemporary art as a curator and critic. He specializes in skill-based figurative paintings and sculpture, and has organized several successful exhibitions of imaginative realism that became must-sees for art lovers in California. After the TRAC conferences ended in 2019, he started contributing articles to prominent magazines, and soon gained a reputation for his insightful reviews and profiles of talented artists.

Increasingly frustrated with the trend towards abstract and conceptual art that he felt was disconnected from traditional skills such as figurative drawing, and composition, and from popular taste, Pearce championed artists who shared his passion for visionary representational art, and began writing for publications such as Mutual Art, American Art Collector, American Fine Art, and Fine Art Connoisseur. He sought out artists who were pushing the boundaries of traditional techniques while maintaining a strong focus on storytelling and beauty. Today, Pearce's writing has helped to raise the profile of representational art in a world that often seems obsessed with shock value and novelty. He continues to promote artists who he believes are making a meaningful contribution to the art world through their dedication to skill and craftsmanship. Pearce's work challenges conventional assumptions about the role of the American avant-garde and highlights the importance of artistic individualism. His scholarship and activism have inspired a new generation of artists to question established norms and push the boundaries of artistic experimentation.

Between 2005 and 2016 Pearce was the curator of CLU's Kwan Fong Gallery of Art and Culture, which under his direction hosted exhibits like Running with Scissors, The Man Show, The New Romantic Figure, and has shown works by a huge variety of artists including Jeremy Lipking, Mia Tavonatti, Cyn McCurry, Pamela Wilson, and of a broad range of genres, including the AIDS Quilt, photos from communist countries, installation art, and art by CLU's Art faculty. Since 2016 he has worked as a freelance curator, organizing exhibitions of imaginative realism and psychedelic art, showing work by Odd Nerdrum, Roger Dean, Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell, Jeremy Lipking, Brad Kunkle, Adam Miller, and other artists in the pantheon of the great figurative artists of our time.


Michael earned his undergraduate degree in theater from Dartington College of Arts and an M.F.A. in scenic design from University of Southern California. In October of 2007 his PhD dissertation "Vesica: Using Neolithic British Ritual Art and Architecture as a Model for Making Contemporary Art." was accepted by examiners at Plymouth University, England, who awarded the doctorate in 2008. 


His research interests include: Imaginative Realism, Fantasy and Science fiction art, Emergence, Aesthetics, Alchemy, Prehistoric British Art and Architecture, Ritual symbolism, Renaissance symbolism and mysticism, British Antiquarianism.


Kitsch, Propaganda, and the American Avant-Garde (2023) details the dramatic history of the weaponization of avant-garde art as propaganda, from its violent origins selling the idealistic communism of revolutionary France to its use as an American weapon wielded against the Nazi and Soviet threat as World War II began. It shows how art became ammunition in the war of ideas as the protagonists of the Second World War attempted to control the minds of their people. The text highlights how the avant-garde was the battlefield for the epic struggle between collectivism and American individualism, and will appeal to the reader with an interest in dramatic stories of art, history, and politics.

Art in the Age of Emergence (2015) delivers sensible emergent aesthetics, explaining the processes that happen in human minds when we share ideas as works of art, skewering the orthodoxies of contemporary art with pragmatic wisdom about why representational art thrives in the new millennium.

Pearce is editor of "As it Is," and "Kitsch and Beauty - the Proceedings of the Representational Art Conference 2014," and "The Real Snake - the Proceedings of the Representational Art Conference 2012" 

Pearce is a prolific art journalist, whose writing has been published in Fine Art Connoisseur, Spiked, American Art Collector, Mutual Art, American Fine Art Magazine, Quillette, the Martin Center for Academic Renewal, TRACT, Artists on Art, Combustus Magazine, and The Postmodern Times.