Michael Enns surrounded himself with lizards, snakes and tortoises as a child. Born in South Florida, amphibians, reptile and small mammals were plentiful in the backyards and sandspur patches where children played barefoot. Little boys and girls were plagued with hook worms and parasites, and chased mosquito trucks spewing a fog of DDT on their rusty bicycles.
Boats and anything that floated were as available as old toys to play on. Life was unstructured, neglectful and yet appreciated. On an adventure about a mile away from his parents home, a discovery was made. A big old house with an arched cypress door conspicuously opened. The house was dark and smelled of turpentine and cabbage. A loud deep voice yelled out “god damn it”, suddenly jazz music came on and a man stepped out of the darkness. His hair was a wave of white and he sported a tiny white mustache above of his lip. He offered Enns a coca-cola. The boy never left.
This was the home and studio of A.E.(Bean) Backus, Florida’s most revered landscape painter. Enns was enthralled with the artist and wanted to be just like him. Backus was the teacher and the inspiration for the Highwaymen. They are renowned for their vibrant and energetic interpretation of Backus’ style.
Every year Backus would take his new protege’ to his studio in Jamaica W.I. There Enns discovered the beauty, the lushness, exuberance, the poverty and pathos of the island.
Enns graduated from Parsons School of Design and immediately worked from part time to full time for Andy Warhol. Enns’ tropical sense of color was a great asset to the imagery of the pop artist. His knowledge of printmaking served him well. He worked with Rauschenberg, Basquiat, Haring, and the fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo.
Like many others, Enns suffered the loss of friends and associates in New York City from AIDS. Seeking a new adventure and a change in scenery the artist settled in Atlanta, Georgia. There he continued to paint and with his partner Jon Eiseman. He created interiors with murals, grass growing on walls and using materials more noted for gardening and bomb-making finishes.
Since the death of his partner Enns continues to capture on canvas the life force, the cheap and tawdry of new his environment in Miami, Florida.