‘The Tightrope’ by Mark Bryan
Artist: Mark Bryan
Title: ‘The Tightrope’
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Dimensions: 16” x 20”
Year of Creation: 2012
About the Artist:
As a child of the Fifties and Sixties, born and raised in Southern California, Bryan could not avoid soaking up the pop culture and angst of that time and place. He was fascinated by cheesy Sci-Fi and horror movies, super hero comics, Mad Magazine, Salvador Dali, The Twilight zone, Zap Comics, etc. All of those influences plus the “duck and cover” mentality of the Red Scare had their shots at a sensitive mind. In addition to the constant threat of atomic annihilation, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, and the Kennedy and King assassinations further provoked a political awareness and a sense that all is not right with the human species. At an early age art became a way for Bryan to deal with and make sense of the world.
When the time came to choose an occupation Bryan studied architecture briefly but soon realized art was his best path to free expression. While attending Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles (Master of Fine Arts, 1974), Bryan took up with the early founders of the Chicano Art movement (Los Four). They introduced him to the Mexican Muralists’ work of the early 20th century and the value of a tradition of accessible work with social/political content. This realization combined with his early influences have come together in his work to create a unique and engaging brew.
The continuing wars, terrorism, political hi-jinks, and the deteriorating environment have only reinforced his early perspective and provide a never ending supply of subject matter to work with. In spite of the disturbing nature of his topics, Bryan always manages to portray them in a humorous and seductive fashion.
Although most known for his political work savaging the Bush administration, Bryan also directs many of his efforts inward, producing work from the imagination. At first impression, this surreal and whimsical work seems just for fun but usually contains underlying symbolic comment about life in these times and human nature in general.
Bryan has exhibited his work throughout the US, Canada, Europe and Japan. His work appears on numerous satirical and political web sites across the US and internationally. It has also been featured as illustration and cover art for publications, including Juxtapoz and Adbusters magazines.
Bryan has lived on the Central Coast of California for the past 37 years and tries to paint and surf as much as possible. He has a son, a daughter, three granddaughters, a grandson and a grateful attitude.
“There’s a lotta things about me you don’t know anything about, Things you wouldn’t understand. Things you couldn’t understand. Things you shouldn’t understand.” – Pee Wee Herman
Pee Wee got it half right, but I believe that like most of us, there were a lot of things he didn’t understand about himself. For me, painting is free and ready access to the subconscious, like dreaming while awake. Except for my political work, I don’t spend a lot of time planning my paintings. One image seems to lead to another like going down a corridor and opening doors to see what’s there. I try to allow the pictures to make their way to the canvas on their own, often changing them significantly as I work. Not knowing where they will end up makes the process fun and intriguing.
I believe all of us have endless landscapes to explore within ourselves. Probably artists are more inclined to go to these places and remember what they see. We take our sketchbooks with us and bring back pictures to show our friends. Hopefully these pictures say something about all of us.
“You may not be interested in war but war is interested in you.” – Leon Trotsky
Although turning inward is my first instinct and love, I can’t always stay inside my head and ignore what’s going on in the world. When the circus turns especially ugly or when a good idea appears, I feel the need and responsibility to make some kind of comment. Humor and satire have been my way to confront serious topics which are often too grim to portray directly. There is always some satisfaction for me in pointing out the absurdities of human behavior and making fun of the villains of the day. I don’t know if this kind of work has any effect on the situation, but at least it has a therapeutic value for me and others of like mind. Many times I’ve heard “thanks for painting a picture of how I feel”. That’s good enough for me.
“Look, we either all come from monkeys or we’re supposed to be like this, and I don’t like it either way.” – Reverend Chris Gross
Despite our imperfections and all the trouble we cause ourselves I still have affection and hope for our species. At times I try to overcome my cynical tendencies and create work that explores the positive and mysterious aspects of the human experience.
The fact of our existence is the greatest riddle. We are all in our own way trying to make sense of this powerful and beautiful mystery that we find ourselves immersed in. I believe is it well worth appreciation and contemplation. Gauguin in his famous painting asks “Whence do we Come? What are We? Whither are we going?” For me, those questions are always worth trying to answer. – Mark Bryan 2013