Becoming The Student, #15: Mar Cus

One of the most significant relationships of my adult life has been with a former student and current colleague, Marcus Miers. Right now he’s finishing up his MFA at The University of Wisconsin at Madison, but he undertook his BFA at The University of Missouri. Marcus was among the most interesting, confusing, and outstanding students I’ve had at Mizzou. He is, so far, the only student I’ve had as an undergraduate who came back to work in the classroom with me as an assistant in the very classes in which he distinguished himself.

The semester where he worked with me as an assistant to my Color Drawing courses remains a highlight of my teaching experience. As fun as that was, however, his participation in Color Drawing as a student was more transformative to me. He consistently challenged the premise of each project. He pushed me to go beyond my standard explanations. He devoted significant time and intellectual effort to grasp as much as possible in the classroom.

At one point during his second tour of duty in Color Drawing (this time in Intermediate Color Drawing), Marcus turned away from the assignment I gave. We had been working from the model for weeks, and his work was large, energetic, and chromatically intense. Yet one day, out of the blue, he simply set up his easel outside the parachute I’d hung as a barrier to block general views of the model. I had learned to trust him, though I found it somewhat cheeky of him to ignore just about every aspect of the project I’d just assigned. I sat back and watched as the beginnings of what would – eventually – become the foundation of his MFA work began to gestate right before me.

Forgoing the figure, Marcus turned instead to direct perceptual effects. He would not turn back. Light and color, intensely dense and saturated, were the basis of his rigorous investigations. The work (here’s an example) became smaller and, oddly, more spectral. It hovered over the counter-intuitive field of non-focus that forms the basis of all representation. He was seeing through depiction toward an intensity of hue and luminosity that is basically felt rather than taught. It makes perfect sense that he would soon become passionate about Josef Albers (and in particular Albers’ notion of halation). I learned more through witnessing that single aesthetic and educational maneuver than I had in my previous years of teaching combined.

~

MarCusPortraitMar Cus (High Waters and Duct Tape)

Charcoal and Pastel on Paper, 30 by 20 inches. 2014.

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Below I’m posting three contemplations on Marcus that I made prior to the portrait above. They were created after a photo I took of Marcus at the Milwaukee Art Museum last year.

2014-04-04 19.30.15

The Sublimity of the Duct Tape Painter (Portrait of Marcus Miers with Tears)

Dimensions variable, 2014. Created in Sketchbook Pro and Artrage with alterations in Afterlight. April, 2014.

 

2014-04-04 22.22.42The Apotheosis of Mar Cus (Portrait of Marcus Miers with a Rocket)

Dimensions variable, 2014. Created in Sketchbook Pro and Artrage with alterations in Afterlight. April, 2014.

1977309_10104000276785119_1550973951_nThe Artist is Absent (Marcus Missing From the Milwaukee Art Museum)

Digital painting, Dimensions variable. Created in Sketchbook Pro and Artrage with alterations in Afterlight. April, 2014.

I am so thankful that Marcus has participated in my life over the years. We have shown work together (more than once). We have traveled together. Next year I will curate an exhibition of his work at Imago Gallery and Cultural Center in Columbia, MO. Knowing Marcus (and his brother Sam) has been so rewarding, so educational, so important. I’m just grateful to get to celebrate him and share the images above with everyone.

On top of it all, it’s his birthday today. So happy birthday, sir. Thank you for your friendship and encouragement.

~

To close, here’s a little throwback:

DSC06563Marcus working on one of the last figure drawings he made in Color Drawing. October, 2010.

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Fall 2011 Color Drawing

Every semester I have to make more posts about how awesome my Color Drawing classes are. 

Above: Marissa Valentino’s amazing Colored Pencil drawing of a head from our group project.

Students assembling one of our large group drawings.

Hannah and Vincent hard at work on a final figure work for the course.

Emily Armstrong’s 44 by 30 inch figure drawing in progress on the easel. You can see our parachute stage setup there behind. We love that parachute!

Above and below: A selection of drawings from the second half of the semester we pulled out for a group crit – some in progress, others complete. Overall a great effort by my students this year!

India Watts working on her Matisse master study.

The final group project installed in one of the stairwells at the University of Missouri.

 

Installing at Gordon

Today I arrived at Gordon College to install my exhibition of paintings, drawings, and prints, titled Redeeming Tensions. Bruce Herman, a Professor at Gordon and director of the gallery, worked with Leo (installer extraordinaire!) and me to hang the show. Here are a few shots of it all going up.

I also spoke for Associate Professor Michael Monroe’s class of 75 or so – fielding all of the students’ questions made for a good time.

More tomorrow after the opening reception talk. If you’re in the area (eastern Massachusetts), stop by! It’ll be at the Barrington Art Center on the Gordon Campus.

So far I’ve felt such a kinship with everyone here. It’s a great place; the beautiful campus has a massive blanket of snow but everyone is pleasant and uplifting to talk to. I’m really looking forward to the reception…

Vacation = Work

This Thanksgiving Break my wife and I decided to stay at our home here in Columbia, MO rather than going to visit family for the holiday. There’s a lot going on for us, and for my work in particular. There’s no time to take a break.

I’ve got three significant shows coming up. The first is a wonderful show at the University of Mary Washington Ridderhof Martin Gallery in Fredericksburg, VA. The exhibition is titled SHADES OF GRAY: Drawings in Graphite and will run from January 21 – February 25, 2011. I’m particularly excited about this exhibition as Joann Moser, Senior Graphics Curator from the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, will be presenting a lecture and placing the work on view in context. Below is one of the four works of mine that will be included in the show.

Anthropology (Conceits of Knowledge #3), graphite on paper, 38 by 42 inches, 2008.

The next show I’m involved in is a solo show at the Barrington Center for the Arts at Gordon College just outside of Boston, MA. The show is titled Redeeming Tensions and will feature approximately 40 paintings, mezzotint prints, and drawings. It’s the largest show I’ve ever attempted. It will run from February 5 through March 19, 2011. Below are two of mezzotint plates I’ve been working this week. The finished works will be printed and appear in the show.

Lamentations Chapter 3 Verse 8, copper mezzotint plate, 2010.

Lamentations Chapter 3 Verse 14, copper mezzotint plate, 2010.

The final major show I’m involved in will be a two-person exhibition at the 930 Art Center in Louisville, KY with Tim Lowly, one of the most amazing representational painters working today. It is an extreme honor to be asked to show with him, and I am super excited about our show of tondos. I’ve got some work for this show underway but since it’s a while until the show opens I want to keep that under wraps – the run should be June 17 – July 31, 2011.

So, as you can see, I don’t have time to take vacations from the things I love, the things I’m passionate about… and I wouldn’t want to. Faith, family, art making, community, teaching; I life for and in and through these things. They may all seem like cliches to some people, but I’ve got a full life and a full plate. I love it and I am thankful for it.

Inspiration – Jusepe Ribera

Over the last few years my work has turned on a conception of the natural geometry of the body. You can see how in images like this (“Collapse” oil on canvas on panel, 48 inches in diameter):

or this (“Revealer, Forced” pastel on paper, 23 inches in diameter):

that I am really focusing on a kind of geometric tension in the positions and movements of the body.

A lot of this has come from my interest in the work of the great Spanish painter Jusepe Ribera. In 1610 he followed the call of Caravaggio (who died that same year) by traveling to Italy to see the master’s work. Here are a couple of my favorites:

“The Flaying of Marsyas”

“The Martyrdom of Saint Phillip”