Mattapoisett man unlocks artistic talent after career in medicine

Jan 19, 2016

Retired cardiologist and award-winning painter Mike Mazer says his parents’ chicken farm is one of the catalysts that drove him to art.

“I ended up being the one who would get up at four in the morning to feed five hundred to seven hundred chickens,” said Mazer, a Mattapoisett resident. “I began drawing again to get away from the chickens.”

The young Mazer took cues from cartoons, drawing portraits in pen and pencil, but as he got older, his focus shifted away from art to academics. A Massachusetts native, he matriculated to medical school in Ohio where the only drawings he did were technical (though they were the envy of his fellow med school students).

With residencies in Boston, Mazer returned to New England and learned cardiology, nephrology (related to the kidneys) and internal medicine. After working in a dialysis unit, he joined the Navy during the Vietnam War where his fluency in eight languages and his medical training came in handy.

Eventually, Mazer returned to the Boston area where he met his wife, Marilyn, and continued to develop his medical career. Over the course of 35 years, he served as the chiefs of cardiology and nephrology at several Boston area hospitals.

Art came back into his life when Mazer and his wife began collecting pieces for their home.

“I said, ‘Geez I could do that,” recalled Mazer, who after several decades again picked up art supplies and began to create.

Until that point, Marilyn said, “I didn’t know he drew or painted.”

Although it had been a long time since he painted, Mazer found that he took to it quickly. He started with watercolors and soon found an audience as his pieces were chosen for several exhibits.

Mazer's love of the water lead him to specialize in marine scenes, such as nautical landscapes, fishing boats and wharves. He paints both "plein air" and in his studio, using his own photos to piece together different ideas into one image.

Most of the artwork depicts the New England coastline, but it has been well received on every coast.

“The more I painted, the more I was exhibiting, the more invitations I was getting,” he said. “A lot of the paintings sold, so you’ve got to make a lot more.”

Mazer, who retired in 1997, began contributing his pieces to 25 and even 50 exhibits a year across the country, with Marilyn taking control of the submission and naming duties. To date, 700 of his pieces, both watercolor and oil, have appeared in exhibits at galleries, museums and in several publications, resulting in more than 100 awards.

A particularly meaningful honor came to the artist in 2009 when the Zeeland Maritime Museum in Vlissingen, Holland chose two of his watercolors for its 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s establishment of New Amsterdam, now New York. The paintings were the only two set in the United States, said Mazer.

“Snare, Boom and Skimmer” and “Joint Operation with GEO Insight” portray scenes at the Mattapoisett Town Wharf following the 2003 Bouchard Oil Spill and are now part of the U.S. Coast Guard’s permanent collection in Washington D.C.

Mazer and his wife recently donated prints of those pieces to the town. They will be on display at the Mattapoisett harbormaster’s office.

As gratifying as it is to sell a painting, Mazer said he also values public access to his artwork, which inspired his recent gift to Mattapoisett.

“It's nice to be able to give back to Mattapoisett for our happiness here. Many people can go in and out of the harbormaster office,” said Mazer.

His work can also be seen at the New Bedford Art Museum, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the Cape Cod Museum of Art and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

Throughout his painting career, Mazer has also been part of more than 30 national art societies. He served as the president of the New England Watercolor Society for six years and the educational program director of the Canton Art Association for 10 years.

Recent surgery has slowed down Mazer’s daily painting schedule and his exhibiting, but not for long. The prolific artist has many brush strokes left and new projects, including a book, on the horizon.

Just as he said he had an “insatiable” need to help people through medicine, so Mazer also feels compelled to paint, this time for more personal reasons.

“Painting, I do it because it gives me enjoyment,” he said.

For more information on the artist, visit his homepage at