Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist


Southernaire 2, 2011, Oil on canvas with carved wooden pediment and mixed media predella.

When Mark Messersmith first moved to Tallahassee, Florida in the mid-1980s, he was immediately struck by the wildness of the surrounding landscape, a wildness gone from much of America. In Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist, he continues his exploration of the tension between this wild, living place and ever-increasing human expansion.  Drawing on inspirations ranging from the Pre-Raphaelites, Martin Johnson Heade, Southern folk art and medieval manuscripts, the paintings of Messersmith are dense, radiant, and sculptural depictions of the flora and fauna of northern Florida struggling to survive.
Installation shot of Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist at the Ogden Museum

With his large sculptural canvases, Messersmith creates a narrative where animals, insects and plants are in constant struggle – often with the natural cycles of life and the food chain, but more noticeably against the onslaught of human expansion. In this drama, the domesticated dog often represents the destructive nature of man. Logging trucks filled with fresh timber are as common in his surfaces as they are on the back roads of the rural South.

Edge of Town, 2009, Oil on canvas with carved wooden pediment and mixed media predella

These canvases are embellished with carved pediments inspired by medieval manuscripts that act to highlight the theme of the narrative. Along the bottom of each canvas, a series of predellas in the tradition of medieval altar pieces serve to expand the narrative. Yet each of these works, like all of Messersmith’s paintings, deals more with light and color than narrative.
From a Dark Twilight, 2012, Oil on canvas with carved wooden pediment and mixed media predella.

Going out regularly into the wetlands and marshes south of Tallahassee, Messersmith documents natural performances – the changing light of a day passing in the wild – with his lushly-colored plein air landscapes. This obsession with light and the passage of time is carried into a series of totems. The six wooden totems in his most recent body of work depict the passing of a single day, from dawn till dusk.

They Fight, They Fail  (Six Hours of a Long Day) 1-3
2011 Oil and mixed media on pine

They Fight, They Fail  (Six Hours of a Long Day) 4-6
2011 Oil and mixed media on pine

Installation shot of Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist at the Ogden Museum

Vespertine Sacrifice, 2006, Oil on canvas with carved wooden pediment and mixed media predella

Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist opened on April 19th, 2012 on the fourth floor of the Ogden Museum's Goldring Hall, and continues through July 23rd.

Installation shot of Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist at the Ogden Museum.

Mark Messersmith is Professor of Art at Florida State University, where he has taught since 1985. He received an MFA from Indiana University, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Ford Fellowship, four Individual Artist Fellowship Awards from the Florida Department of State, and a 2006 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painting Award.
Wild as Angels, 2012, Oil on canvas with carved wooden pediment and mixed media predella

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