3 Questions Digital Series

Mark Messersmith

An interview from Art in Embassies 3 Questions Digital Series with Mark Messersmith, who speaks about his creative process and artwork at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Vilnius, Lithuania.

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Full Transcript

I’ve always been interested in the environment and the animals and the plants i live in tallahassee florida and two things i really do is make paintings and work in my garden and um so that’s what i tend to gravitate towards with my paintings things that i’ve seen you know they’re all things that are indigenous to the area around here certainly the birds and the alligators and the mammals um they’re not necessarily all things that i’ve actually witnessed you know like you know sometimes the paintings are are either metaphorical or maybe they’re things that i imagine going on out in the wilderness when nobody’s watching sometimes they’re things i hope are going on sometimes they’re things that i’m afraid of going on so they’re not actually depicting any singular event they’re more about a kind of a snowball world of what might be out there when no one’s watching and it has to do with times of the day

times of the season friend one time said i was sort of a post-apocalyptic romantic you know so i the paintings are really about that cuss between the way the world is right now you know between sort of pessimism and optimism you know artwork is really about posing questions to the viewer you know i want people to look at them and try and decode them and they’re all going to come up with their own different insights and solutions which is fine i mean i would be upset if i was illustrator and that happened but i want people to be engaged hopefully with them long enough to think you know what’s going on with this this painting and i wonder why somebody took the time to paint it so um you know they’re open-ended to a degree nobody can probably nail down exactly what’s going on in each individual opinion and i probably couldn’t either it probably would change from day to day

you know i want people to be able to look at the painting and say oh that is a bird oh but that’s just a carved piece of wood you know i i don’t want it to be so

illusionistically perfect that people never lose sight of what the materials are i sort of like things that are mechanically unsophisticated so it’s just saw utility knife and paint you know i draw it with pencil it’s sawed out with scrolls off um and then i use the utility knife box knife and just sort of do some rounding off the edges you know some surface carving on it so it’s pretty simple and then i paint them with acrylics acrylic paint and again maybe my interest in what is called naive art folk art you know broken mirrors and glitter i mean anytime you use broken mirrors and a glitter you can’t hardly disavow your interest in folk art and things like that and i’ve always been interested particularly in in the sculptural aspect of folk art you know they’re interested in birds and maybe they’re interested in sort of the spirit of the universe you know what’s going on out there

and the simplicity of the materials they worked with what they had around you know broken crockery broken years glitter and tin cans you know i sort of like that that self-reliance and you are what you live with and again it’s about not being too reliant on anybody else in terms of technical supports and materials and i sort of like the reality and the honesty of that and the availability of those kind of materials to anybody oh there’s no reason why i can’t do that i know what wood is i got a saw and i can cut that out it doesn’t mean i want people emulating me but but you know the idea that uh anybody can make art has always been interesting to


so i sort of like the magicness of what painting can do it can just be flat it can be canvas it can be oil paint or it can be anything in the world that you want it to be and people buy into it you know they don’t look at that and go oh look at that flat square of cloth and dirt there’s a landscape it goes on forever and those are kind of why i think painting is so important especially even maybe today people think painting sometimes is outmoded old-fashioned it’s been done for 500 years been done ever since jeans first weapon planet but that’s probably a good thing that it sustained itself for that long and you know i i think it’s important nowadays certainly that there is a sense of a human’s hand having done it you know it’s not like pushing a button or moving a mouse and zillions of pixels instantly responds you know there’s there’s that humanity to a brush with paint on it and one person investigating themselves and everybody kind of at the same time