MARK:My most notable work as an artist has been to create Galeria 409, a venue for
the art work of others, and a catalyst for the creation of paintings, sculpture,
photography, music, performance art and poetry. It's also been used as a
backdrop for film, photo and video shoots. It has exposed a lot of Brownsville
residents to the great history and culture of this region. It's also a good
place to paint and to do graphic work, like posters for the events we sponsor.
If I had to choose which of my paintings was the best, I'd have to tell you:
"my NEXT one".
TAOB: Is there a symbolic meaning behind the use of death
repeating in your recent paintings since you have been
producing work in Brownsville ?
MARK: When I was in fifth grade in Corpus, all my drawings were of skeletons.
I've painted a lot of pictures, mostly still life, celebrating my dead
friends. Since moving to Brownsville, I've embraced the indigenous culture
of the region, which celebrates death and enjoys the work of Jose Guadalupe
Posada. I'm also on the downhill side of what was once a very fast life, so
I better come to grips with La Muerte, before she gets a grip on me.
TAOB:Looking back at your life, tell us one of your
childhood memories that most stands out, perhaps indicating
that you were probably gonna be an artist or a painter of
MARK: I grew up in a very hostile environment. The only way my parents could get my
brother and I to stop fighting, was to give us crayons and paper. When I was
five my older brother, who was six, took a bunch of our drawings and sold them
door to door in the neighborhood. One of my pictures sold for fifty cents,
which was a phenomenal sum of money for a kid in 1952. You could get a candy
bar for a nickle or see a movie for twenty five cents back then. Our parents
thought we had somehow stole the money.
TAOB: Your first group show was in 1976, tell us a
little about the work you exhibited ?
MARK: I did a pen and ink drawing of a guy who had been clubbed by the police in a
labor strike. It went in a show that travelled to all the places where people
were locked up or locked out in Washington D.C.. DC jail, Saint Elizabeth's
Hospital for the Insane, a city run old folks home, a public hospital and to a
College for deaf people. In my misspent youth, I spent a lot of time in
strikes and demonstrations and not a few full blown riots, so the subject was
near and dear to my heart, and I could identify with the audience that got to
see the exhibition. It was a good start.
TAOB:You were born in Honolulu,
Hawaii in 1948, you have lived all over the United States
including , Los Angeles , New York, Washington DC and
practically all over Texas, now find yourself in
Brownsville Texas, is this your last stop and what you
will now consider home for the rest of your life ?
MARK: I'm sixty years old and fairly tired of moving around. I chose
Brownsville because I never want to be cold again as long as I live. I love the
Gulf of Mexico and the proximity to Mexico. Why would I want to live any where
TAOB: One of your advise that was given to you and you now
give out to other artist is "paint twenty pieces alike
and you should be ready for a show ", tell us how has
that advise helped you as an artist ?
MARK:Doing twenty paintings that "are all alike" is a litmus test for
aspiring artists. It's like "making your bones" when you set out
to join the mafia. It proves that you're committed, that you're
serious, that you have the attention span and the fortitude to produce a body of
consistent work. I'm not talking about cranking out fifteen minute
masterpieces here- but well thought out, well executed paintings. It puts you
in a league above the casual hobbyist, or the college painting student, and
takes you to the next level. Sadly, most people don't, can't or
won't make the effort. It takes about twenty pictures to fill up an average
art gallery. I had to do it to get my first one man show.
TAOB: You like Brownsville history, I can
tell that by your painting "War on the Rio
Grande", tell us , does the city of Brownsville and its
culture inspire your art or better yet have you felt more
inspired to produce work here in Brownsville then you have
in other cities perhaps Corpus Christi ?
MARK:I did my first couple of calavera paintings of scenes from the history of
Brownsville as studies for a mural in the alley next to my building. I wanted
to see La Callejon de las Calaveras- a block long alley painted on both sides
with skeletons playing out the violent history of Brownsville and Matamoros.
The alley is a couple of hundred feet long with walls from fifteen to thirty
feet high plus perpendicular walls that could be painted as well. The biggest
problem is, the studies have been so popular that it's hard to keep them
around long enough to study. People keep making me offers I can't refuse.
Also, it's one of those gigantic projects where you'd need scaffolding,
several hundred gallons of exterior masonry paint and a couple of dozen other
people working on the project to make it happen- not to mention a month or two
of free time in good dry weather. I haven't given up on the idea, but
it's one of those dreams that's going to take some
time and effort. Meanwhile, I have another big canvas waiting for a painting
about the battle that took place just south of the old bridge during the
TAOB: You are an owner of an art gallery, you have had
numerous shows, most have been very successful and well
accepted by the media, but you have not yet pushed a one
man exhibit of your own work in your own gallery, tell
us is there any reason or feelings to why you have not
and or is there plans in the future for one ?
MARK: I hesitate to show my own paintings at 409 because I've seen too many
artist run galleries where the artists who ran the place just showcased their
own work. I would prefer to avoid that situation. I hung some of my own stuff
downstairs this summer while we were closed to the public except for some
events- mostly concerts. The place looked naked without art on the walls.
Because some of the concerts were punk rock bands with slam dancing, we had to
hang the pictures seven feet off the floor. We've given up on punk rock, so
we're back to eye level hanging of other peoples' stuff. I'm at the
place in my own painting career where, for whatever reason, I'm able to get
all my work displayed at other venues or sold to private collectors pretty
quickly. I don't get much of a thrill from blowing my own horn. It's a
pleasure to encourage and promote other artists.
TAOB: Mark many thanks for your cooperation and your time and
support to the local art scene, and your generous
cooperation to this The Art of Brownsville Blog Artist Interview.
MARK: Gabriel, muchas gracias for your continued support of the arts in
Brownsville, The Art of Brownsville Blog, and Galeria 409. I appreciate the hard
work, time and effort that you and Myra put into this project. Buena suerte.