Mark Anderson is a Sarasota-based sculptor and teaches in the Department of Fine Arts at Ringling College of Art and Design. His work is in many private, university, corporate and museum collections including Coca Cola Company in Atlanta, Ga.; Kohler Company Arts in Industry Collection, Sheyboygan, Wisconsin; John Michael Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Lowe Gallery in Atlanta, Ga. A major work, Woman Asleep, was installed at the Gulf Coast Museum of Art in Clearwater, Florida in 1995. It was one of the first works acquired for their outdoor sculpture collection, which includes many nationally prominent sculptors. This work was the only sculpture from the museum collection sited in the Art Lovers Guide to Florida, by Anne Jeffery and Aletta Dreller.
Anderson’s work combines intense realism with a rigorous formal design. It is in the tradition of humanist realism that goes back to the Quattrocento and yet is absolutely contemporary in its structure. His work resonates with people at many levels and appeals to a wide range of audiences. Even at its most abstract, his work has always been representational and his recent work is even more so. The late Henry Geldzahler, former curator of Modern Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art said of the large freestanding work, "Mark Anderson's bronze castings are among the most accomplished works in the show. Greek art and mythology combine with the work of Germaine Richier, Reg Butler and the American Rueben Nakian in his moving handsome sculptures. They perfectly balance representation and abstraction while emphasizing our origins in animal nature."
Mark Anderson Artist Statement.
This work is a continuation of the series “The Contact of Two Skins” which is
taken from W.S. Merwin’s translation of an aphorism by Chamfort of which the
complete statement is “Love as it exists in society is merely the mingling of two fantasies and the contact of two skins.” Like any maxim it is only partially true
and while it may pertain to some of the works in the show, I would hope that
my work expresses genuine feeling also.
The Sculptures are simple formal arrangements of two elements that interact and
generate meaning. It is my intention that the formal elements enhance the narrative.
of course meaning is open to interpretation.
My approach is not so much conceptual in that I have a preconceived idea. The poet W.C. Williams said, “no ideas but in things.” I do have a preconceived vocabulary of form: from within that vocabulary I prefer to find things than to say things. I hope my objects are illuminations for myself and for others.
20 IMAGES ON DISC
1. EVERYTHING AND NOTHING 11” x 8” x 7” bronze
The title is a variation on the final line from Philip Larkin’s poem High Windows,
Nothing and is Nowhere, and is Endless. This is a rare example of a work where I have one of the faces looking directly at the viewer. The observer becomes complicit in the suggestion of the title. For the face on the left side, this is everything for the out-looking face it’s nothing.
2. BEGIN IN GLADNESS 9” x 11” x 6” bronze
The title of the work, Begin in Gladness, is from Wordsworth, arrived at from a poem by Robert Lowell dedicated to and about his friend the poet Delmore Schwartz. In the poem he has Schwartz quoting this line from Wordsworth in which Schwartz changes the line curiously to “begin in sadness.” After hours of going through my Wordsworth line by line I finally found the lines quoted and found Wordsworth used the phrase “begin in gladness” which is a title I could use, although the following line “thereof in the end, despondency and madness” gives pause. Since I thought the male figure looked a little like Delmore, why not? At least I didn’t call it Delmore and Elizabeth, although they did end in despondency and madness.
If you look at the work you see a young couple who are apparently beginning in gladness. They seem equal, enjoy the idea of being together and this is most likely the truth. If you look at the positioning of the faces you may see the male face is square, his eyes are level, his face has a slight backward tilt, and he is bit older than the woman. She has an oval face, her eye level is both above and below the man’s, her face has a slight downward cast. They are an ideal young couple. They both look slightly past each other into the future. Their present interpretation is dependant upon your point of view.
3. THE WORLD IS THE WORLD 14” x 11” x 6” bronze
The title is from a poem by Raymond Carver, the celebrated short story writer who chronicled ordinary Americans in his stories. The openness of the middle aged woman’s face, level, open, looking outward, giving strength; to the strong but also nervous male face who tenderly leans on her, reflects the uncertain future that faces everyone.
4. HEAD AND TWO FEET, TWO three images, 13” x 12” x13” bronze
Head and Two Feet, Two goes back to my descriptive titling. The imagery is based on many things. One it goes back to Egyptian sculpture in its symmetrical shape that invokes both the sphinx or in portraits of Ramses, etc. I wanted a powerful presence and that is why the head is vertical, it keeps it alive, as do the feet which swirl around the head. The imagery may invoke some of the ditches that were being excavated in Kosovo and other places at the time and most people read it that way. However as real as the image is, I wanted it to work on several levels from the mundane pressures of everyday life to the horrendous, if people choose to see it that way. It is very formal, of course.
5. FLOWERS AND GRASSES 11” x 12” x 6” bronze
The title is from a painting by the Japanese Edo period artist, Ogata Korin. I used Asian faces for the work. In my work the female face on the left, is level, pushing forward, strong, determined, and is met by an equally balanced oval face that is looking out in wonderment. The circular nature of the work reflects Korin’s compositional style.
6. RED WAS WHAT YOU WRAPPED AROUND YOU 13” x 9” x 10” bronze
The title is a line from a Ted Hughes poem about his wife Sylvia Plath. My original working title was “She Wore Him Like a Hat” which gave away too much. The image also reminds me of the Vermeer painting “Girl with the Red Hat” in the National Gallery in Washington, DC. The brilliance of the gold leaf on the woman’s face is reflected onto the male face, who is intently looking at her as she equally intently looks past him.
7. SO CLEAR A LIFE 14” x 10” x 7” bronze
The title is from poet Charles Wright. The images are from Japanese sculpture of the Kamakura period (1125-1336). The male face is from the sculpture of Mujaku, an imaginary portrait of the Indian patriarch, from 1208 by the sculptor Unkei. Unkei to me is comparable to Donatello in the striking power and realism of his work. The female face is adopted from a sculpture by the sculptor Enkai, an even earlier work. To me the title reflects the clarity of both the couples’ strength combined with a gentleness and openness of expression with each other.
8. THE SIMPLE BEAUTY OF A THING LIKE THAT 10” x 10” x 7” bronze
The title is a line from Malcolm Lowry’s novella “A Forest Path to the Spring” which is his redemptive response to his classic novel of human degradation “Under the Volcano.”
The story is dedicated to his wife Margerie, and is a poetic reflection on the beauty of their relationship and the natural world in their life near Vancouver, British Columbia.
The statement comes after his wife beautifully explains to him how the sea itself is born of rain. The complete sentence is “So terrible and foreign to the earth has this world become that a child may be born into it Liverpools and never find a single person any longer who will think it worth pointing out to him the simple beauty of a thing like that.”
“My sculpture is of a man who is entranced or asleep in reverie and a woman who is equally and totally enmeshed in the relationship. Hence the simple beauty of a thing like that.
9. THE UNEXAMINED LIFE IS NO DIFFERENT FROM THE EXAMINED LIFE
15” x 10” x 8” bronze
The title is from a poem by Charles Wright. A poet who shares my love of the painter
Morandi and painting in general, which is reflected in the brushy painterly green patina of this work. A female face is leaning on a male face, taken from Unkei’s sculpture of the monk Seshin from about 1208. The faces are in harmony, the woman above the man but leaning on him; the man’s worried, inward looking face being shielded by the woman’s. Perhaps his is the examined life but is only worth living because of the unexamining partner.
10. SADNESS AFTER SONG 14” x 13” x 8” bronze
Sadness After Song, exists in two versions: one in Bronze, and a different combination in aluminum. I have done variations on 12 of my “face works.” I see them as characters in my ongoing play about their relationships. I would like to do three on each of these but maybe they’ll have affairs instead. The faces in these two works are taken from photos of Samuel Beckett and Avigdor Arhika, who knew each other well and played chess etc. I couldn’t find any good photos of Arhika and had to use his paintings. Since he paints himself with his mouth open all the time, I used that. The title “Sadness After Song” is taken from Beckett’s play “Happy Days.” It refers to a literal sadness after song but also to the sadness after sex, a concept that goes back to Aristotle.
11. WE MIGHT AS WELL BE BRILLIANT 14” x 12” x 10” bronze
This work is called We Might As Well be Brilliant, which is what Francis Bacon used to say when he was well into his “cups.” He meant something like “everything is meaningless so we might as well be brilliant,” or some other nihilist idea. I got this quote from the excellent biography of Bacon by Michael Peppiatt. Since Bacon was so flamboyant, I put his model, Muriel Belcher, the colony bar owner where he used to hang, over his head like a hat. Again, this is similar to Vermeer’s painting of the girl with the red hat in the National Gallery. I made it all deep blue green and put a boarder around the heads like a fringe. I like the way it worked. They make a lovely couple even though Bacon, of course, preferred the company of burly men.
I’ve been using faces of artists and writers and others that I admire, but not always. Sometimes I use old sculpture, particularly Japanese. Or I use faces I simply find in magazines. However, with the artist’s it is easier to find more than one photograph of their faces, which helps enormously in modeling them. I’m really not sure how it has affected the work, because when I use them they are sublimated into the relationship between the two faces, and become something else that is mine rather than a simple portrait of the artist. I always think of these works as narrative and I have revisited some of them with different relationships between the faces.
12. NOTHING ELSE BUT GRACE AND MEASURE 12” x 12”x7” aluminum
Nothing Else but Grace and Measure, presented in two versions of an impossibly beautiful couple, who are embodied in the repeated lines of the Baudelaire poem, Invitation to the Voyage. “There, there is nothing else but grace and measure, Richness, quietness, and pleasure.” In the bronze version the male is attempting to force a connection to the Leonardo eyed woman, whose deep set eyes gaze only inward. In the aluminum version he’s looking downward past her and while she is still looking apart and is pushing into him in the way that he was in the first work. The roles are reversed both literally and metaphorically.
13. DAZZLING IMPERMANENCE OF DAYS 16” x 10” x 8” aluminum
Dazzling Impermanence of Days, also exists in two versions. In the aluminum work the dominant male positioning of the faces refers to the Inge painting of Jupiter (Zeus) and Thetis that I saw in Aix-en-Provence. It is such a striking image and so wrong, according to all our social beliefs about men and women. However, at the same time it is so powerful. The title is again from Charles Wright, who I could use for fall my titles. The face that I’ve used for the male is taken from photos of Alberto Giacometti and the positioning isn’t that far from reality. It is a piece that is totally bound together formally and thematically.
The title line is taken from the poem, Lonesome Pine, the context is “Its true, I think , as Kenko says in his Idleness, That all beauty depends on disappearance, The bitten edges of things, the gradual sliding away Into tissue and memory, the uncertainty And Dazzling impermanence of days we beg our meanings from, and their frayed loveliness” This could be a description of all Giacometti’s work.
14. RIGHT AND LEFT 13” x 6” x 7” bronze
Right and Left is based on two works of art that I admire for different reasons, and about a particular point in my student years. The title is taken from a Winslow Homer painting of two ducks, that is inspired by Japanese Art as I always have been. The Homer painting is very unconventional in its point of view and I try to follow that logic in my own work. The second work of art is a painting by Isabel Bishop (I also used her face in a work), entitled Sketch for Nude #2 in the Des Moines Art Center. It is an image of a woman trimming her toenails. I was so struck with it monumentality and the way it was painted. I had never seen a work painted that way. I had gone to the show to see a work by Georgia O’Keefe and also found this work with it’s luminous transparency’s. I tried to catch that monumental quality in my own work.
15. LEFT OVER RIGHT 11”x 6” x 5” bronze
In Left Over Right, I started out to create my own version of Albrecht Durer’s praying hands. However they are not praying because they are from two people, but I am trying to match the beauty of the imagery. The positioning of the left hand over the right reinforced the traditional Christian belief that the wife must submit to the husband. For me this a disturbing piece because of that, but most people see this as a very loving gesture and it is. For me loving and dominance are differing things.
16. LEFT INTO RIGHT 12” x 5” x 6” bronze
I did this piece immediately after the work Left Over Right and I tried to balance the idea of giving yourself to another in a way that is not so complete or submissive. The work is very formal in a serpentine movement that ties the hands together and the upper hand locks into the bottom in a formal way. In the bottom hand the second and third index fingers are reversed to make the rhythm work, but no one notices.
17. WEST OVER EAST two images 9” x 7” x 6” bronze
West over East is a work that has a very gestural right hand that is attempting to overpower a left hand somewhat based on various Buddha hands in the quietness and acceptance. I later found that it is close to the iconography of the “gesture of debate” but is also close to the “gesture of teaching”. I merged these two hands as much as possible into one (see right view) so I suppose there is some ying yang quality of aggression and passivity to the work, I just saw it as a history of misunderstanding between two world views.
18. RIGHT ROLL LEFT, THUMBS OUT 12” x 8” x 6” bronze
This is a purely descriptive title. The hands are elegiac, caressing and absolutely in harmony, structurally and metaphorically. It is an ecstatic work.
19. LEFT OVER RIGHT 10” x 10” x 5” bronze.
Again this is a descriptive title but descriptive metaphorically also. The circular design binds the hands together, but the covered female hand is rising from behind the covering male hand with an almost religious impulse. This is a reversal of the traditional male and female roles. The female is rising skyward while the male hand is the covering landscape.
20. A WALL OF 30 HANDS the wall is 10’ x 25’ bronze
This image is from a show at Manatee Community College in February of 2006.
The overall basic design is based on Ogata Korin’s folding screen painting of Irises.
The reason I included this image is to show the collective power of a number of small works on a large flat surface that work collectively from a distance and individually upon close inspection.