ABOUT THE WORK
I have been engaged for a long time in combining abstract formal principles with a vernacular type of representation, hoping the two entities will compete for perceptual dominance in a given work. I am interested in employing this visual and metaphorical conflict as a means to examine personal, social, and political dichotomies. The universalist ideals of early modernism are a continual point of inspiration, but I also look to convey specific stories. In the end, I try to harmonize my own conflicting aspirational tendencies. My artworks examine the possibility of being connected to both spiritual and physical realms.
While I identify most closely with painting, I have developed a strong affinity for recycled clothing. I am drawn to the palimpsest if offers — readymade hues and patterns that invite my response — along with the residual energy of the garment's former wearer. Once it is sourced from yard sales or give-away bins, the clothing is dismantled, flattened, starched, cut into geometric patterns and rearranged into something hybrid, transformative and new. Hopefully the material's original function is implicitly felt but not wholly recognized. Found photographs and ancillary props are then integrated into this work for contrast and context.
In recent years I have steadily moved away from traditional supports towards exclusive use of repurposed things. In addition, I have relied increasingly on broad social narratives to inform particular projects so that a collective chorus might accompany my personal voice. Recent exhibitions have channeled the populist idealism of the Occupy Movement (Focus on God's Eye), 2012, the metastasizing excesses of social media platforms (The Silk Road), 2015, the catharsis of grief through confronting lifetimes of accumulated goods (Loss of Material Evidence), 2018, (a collaborative project with Maria TD Inocencio) and most recently, an exhibition inspired by the utopian writings of Charles Fourier. My process is meditative and very much engaged with repetition and touch. With the familiarity of these stories as background, I hope the viewer's identification with the subject will lead to a strong sense of empathy for and personal ownership of the content.
Mark R. Smith lives and works in Portland, OR.