Michael's Notes on the Film

As most things go, the beginnings of what would become this film started innocently enough when my long time friend Peter Hartel came up to Racine, Wisconsin to shoot some footage of the installation of my huge seventy-four-foot-long mural so I would have a record. After that, each time I had an opening or artist talk, Peter would show up and as the good friend he is, shoot some more.

Fast forward about twenty years and one day, maybe while we were fishing, Peter mentioned that we had this old footage and we should put it together as a film. Once down this road the project went from a short film to a trip to the heart of my home in West Virginia, complete with interviews from my family, a trip to Marshall University, interviews with collectors, a trip to visit curators, working with early reel to reel video and slide transfers and a collection of photos of coal camps, childhood and images from my long career.

Once this was all gathered, Peter ran into Libi Hake at the dog beach here in Chicago and mentioned the film and the need to edit it. More than two years later with Libi now a Co-Producer, “Work at Hand, Michael K. Paxton” is a full broadcast length documentary film that humbles me. That is no small feat. With no huge funding and a dedication of true professionals this film now moves to the next step of folks getting to see it. My wife Jeanne Nemcek, a wonderful artist herself and my partner for now close to thirty-seven years is the true star of the film. My Aunt Lelia Given now sadly gone is interviewed and shows what real class looks like at 97. June Kilgore who made me the artist I am today is remembered, as she should be. Lastly my work in all its developmental stages speaks for itself.

My life is and always has been about making art no matter the cost. I hope you see after watching this, the fact that steeper the mountain is, the more skilled the climber has to become. Some huge thanks go to Peter and Libi, who believe in me even more than I believe in myself.