Could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what kind of work you make?
I started as a chemistry major in college and became disenchanted rather quickly. It was in my first drawing class that I found that sense of discovery that had drawn me to chemistry in the first place. I still treat my studio practice like a lab experiment - each painting is the result of asking questions and wanting to see what will happen to the space of the paintings if I try different things. I'm interested in developing my own abstract visual language, and my paintings reflect that. I play with shape, color, pattern, mark, and anything else in order to see what kind of spaces I can make.
Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?
My practice doesn't really require inspiration to make work. Everything is part of an investigation. Each piece starts with something that I'm interested in seeing - one simple element or movement. So, I'll put that down and then make a decision about what I want the space of the painting to feel like. Those initial elements can come from anywhere. They can simply be a shape that I want to see, or I might want to see how a sine wave moves across the surface, or it could be some relationship that I see in art history or the world around me that I want to explore.
What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
I like anything that will allow me to make different kinds of marks. I love pinstriping brushes because they allow me to make long, sinuous lines. I've been experimenting with spray paint as ways to get different surfaces and edges. I'm constantly looking for things that can give me more variety in mark, edge, and surface.
What types of obstacles have you run into in your artistic practice and how do you go about navigating around them?
The biggest obstacle always feels like carving out enough time to be able to do everything I want to do. Balancing the day-to-day responsibilities of daily life with the demands of studio time is a constant challenge. I try to mitigate this by trying to stick to as regular a studio schedule as possible, integrating it into my every day with the time that is available, as opposed to focusing on the time that isn't.
What do you feel are the recurring themes in your visual work?
I really try to make each painting different from the others - I want each one to be it's own unique visual experience. But, the things that I'm exploring are consistent from piece to piece. I'm interested in creating spaces that experiential as well as pictorial. I want the space of a painting to communicate an experience that goes beyond 'landscape' or 'interior'. I think about what a 'blissful' or 'hostile' or 'temperamental' space would feel like and attempt to share that experience using an abstract visual language. These ideas are constant in each painting.
Is there a particular artist you feel you relate to? Who are your role models (artists or non-artists)?
There are a number of artistic influences for me. Historically, I've always been Bonnard, Braque, Matisse, Vermeer, and scores of others. For painters working right now, I think about Joanne Greenbaum, Thomas Nozkowski, Amy Sillman, David Aylsworth, and a number of other abstract painters who I see as being just concerned with how their paintings 'feel' as opposed to how they look. Role models from other endeavors include writers in particular. Vladimir Nabokov's "Pale Fire" has stuck with me since I first read it. I love how it challenges the traditional structure of the novel. I recently read Percival Everett's "My Name is Not Sidney Poitier" and was fascinated with how by accepting just something as seemingly innocuous as a strange name, you are willing to accept incrementally more absurd situations until you willingly arrive in a strange, magical, and absurd place. It feels a lot like the process of making a good painting.
What is the best piece of artistic advice you’ve been given?
There was a man named Andrew Forge who was a critic at Penn while I was there. We sort of viewed him as the 'oracle' - he was this source of wisdom that would come and talk to you about what you were doing. One of the first things that he said to me on his first visit ot my studio was, "Do you want your paintings to be better because they're painted better or because they're more what you want them to be?" That has stuck with me since. Other people have great quotes from him - one of my favorites is "The best reason to make a painting is because you want one." Finally there's this excerpt from an interview that he did that I go to regularly for guidance:
"It has always seemed to me that what is specific about an artist is that he or she is dealing with an audience that is internalized; and unless that audience is internalized, deeply internalized, into the psyche of the artist, then they're not really an artist; they're merely some kind of performer, some kind of actor if you like. It's that act of internalization, that struggle to internalize the audience is what really makes an artist an artist. Now, unlike the actor, that internal audience consists not just of those who are living today, but those who have lived before us; so that there's a sense in which an artist who is really working at the most serious level is discoursing with every artist who has ever lived whom they revere and whom they take as important."
See more of Mark's work here.