Show at the Morean Arts Center

Thanks to the kind invitation of Denis Gaston, an artist I greatly admire, I will be showing my salvaged wood cutouts to the public for the first time. The following is based on my artist’s statement provided for the show at the Morean Arts Center.*

When the housing market exploded in St. Petersburg, Florida, many century-old wood frame houses were refurbished, and many more were torn down. I combed demolition sites for wood, mostly old-growth pine and cypress, to use on my own house. The cutouts are made almost completely from this salvaged wood.

The houses were built during the same period in which modern artists like Picasso and Schwitters employed the techniques that have become standards: collage, junk art and assemblage. Economy played a role in their choice of materials, as it does for me. The desire to make something beautiful and durable out of what society deems garbage also plays a role for me, as does a compulsion to draw close, through the hand and common materials, to artists throughout the ages. I believe in the value of the hand-made object. As society becomes more and more sophisticated in terms of science and technology, I believe we will need contact, through the hand, to the earth, more than ever.

Five years ago I dreamed about a mestizo man working in a clean, well-lit and organized studio. I watched in admiration as he cut out a circle

Cutout Circle, salvaged wood

Cutout Circle, salvaged wood

a star

Cutout Star

Cutout Star, salvaged wood

and a strong man or bear image,

Strong Man, salvaged wood

Strong Man, salvaged wood

working with graceful assurance. All the while I regretted not having developed the technique and the images myself. As I became aware of my dream I began looking for a way to lay hold of some tools, only to find that they were locked away in a storage closet. But now, fully lucid and claiming my rights to the dream, I awoke and attempted to recreate the strong man/bear. The image that resulted seemed to grow out of my hand, and looked like the kind of thing artists might have drawn onto cave walls thousands of years ago.

I was intrigued by the challenge of a form of picture making that minimized composition. I have endeavored to create visual interest without relying too much on either composition or strong colors. Several of the works also employ a degree of do-it-yourself composing on the part of the viewer, allowing components to be arranged at will.

Screw Set, salvaged cypress disks (rotating & interchangeable) on salvaged cedar

Screw Set, salvaged cypress disks (rotating & interchangeable) on salvaged cedar

Just as I chose the materials and tools within my reach, so too I chose a method of working that accommodated an irregular schedule. I could work on the cutouts piecemeal, as time permitted, without worrying, for example, about paint skinning over. In addition my choice of subjects and method of composing allowed me to work on individual pieces over time without losing organic integrity, such as might happen with more complex assemblages or compositions. My work is therefore a form of bricolage.

* Opening reception Saturday, May 11th, 5:00 pm, free and open to the public.

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8 Responses to Show at the Morean Arts Center

  1. hedgewitch says:

    I like the way the simplicity of the shapes and compositions adds rather than takes away awareness of the background wood and its character, Mark. Congrats on the show–it’s well-deserved.

  2. Mark, I like everything about this piece, from the open sharing of your dream to your impulse to recycle old materials and give them a new life in art. It is fascinating how creative ideas can form during the dream state, while our minds are free from judging.

    The works you are showing have something in common with pieced quilting – especially Cutout Circle and Cutout Star, which remind me of log cabin quilts – and are the perfect way to feature the central images. You beautifully convey in both words and woodwork the way you found of “drawing close” to artists from other ages. I like this bricolage! — Elizabeth

  3. Susan Scheid says:

    Mark: Congratulations, and well-earned. I enjoyed learning some more of the “back-story,” here. Each work is beautifully done, spare and thoughtful in the use of the materials, not crowding them and giving them room to “speak.” Screw Set makes me want to reach into the screen and play. I wish I were close enough to get down to the opening and celebrate with you. In lieu, I send you a round of cyber-applause. Bravo!

  4. angela says:

    Strong Man has always resonated with me…I believe you used it at one time as your Twitter avatar….I had no idea it was a sculpture (may it be called that??). Its power makes more sense upon reading the inspiration and its formation – it is truly a work that reaches beyond “self”, perhaps, to take a bit of our classes, going back ‘to nature’. Bravo – if money were not an object, I’d hop a plane and see this show! Many, many congratulations, Mark!

    • It’s been my twitter avatar from the start, which is about 3 years ago; don’t feel compelled to change it. The definition of cutout as an art term is a form of sculpture, but to my mind they’re a lot more humble than that. They’re more like pictures; you can’t walk around them in space, even though they have some depth. Wish you could celebrate with me, Angela.

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