Mark Messersmith’s moody, chaotic landscapes feature crimes against the environment and indigenous cultures and evils specific to Florida and its unique ecosystems. His oil paintings contain a frenetic energy of flora and fauna mixed with logging trucks, oil refineries, and apocalyptic cityscapes. The artist came to Florida over 30 years ago and was struck by the constant tension of the state’s natural world butting heads with residential and commercial development. Messersmith came from the Midwest, where he says nature had all been paved over, leaving only a few squirrels and blue jays. Florida is a varied, beautiful, wild environment that has really only been inhabited by large numbers of people for 100-150 years. But in that time, the state has been striped almost bare of its natural resources, yet, as Messersmith tries to capture, the animals and plants of the area find a way to survive. The artist captures this never-ending conflict between man and nature using rich colors, dramatic light sources, and dizzying perspectives. Messersmith says he is capturing what is happening “just” beyond the suburbs and Walmart stores, the scenes of what is left of the natural world, with hints of encroaching developments.
His maximalist works are topped by pediments of carved wooden animals, harkening back to altarpieces and illuminated manuscripts of the High Renaissance. Situated along the bottom of each work is a predella, a row of individual boxes filled with figurines and objects that not only continue the narrative of that painting, but also tells a tale that begins with optimism and often ends in apocalypse. Much like the developers in Florida, Messersmith will sometimes encroach on the viewer’s physical space, attaching sculptures to the frame’s edges, and hanging carved wooden flowers, sticks, insects, and even life size dogs in front of the paintings. These attachments echo imagery in the painting, creating confusion as to what is real and what is an illusion. Each assemblage is a riot of color and imagery that pulls a viewer in to explore and decipher its many components. Messersmith’s work has a common theme of balance – what the artist defines as being midway between hope and despair as he explores the price for a misguided vision of a once-seeming inexhaustible natural world.
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Art as Action: A Panel Discussion
A panel discussion considering the impact of art in facilitating thought, discussion, and action regarding social issues, and the specific impact of Mark Messersmith’s art to create awareness of challenges facing Florida’s environment and native cultures. Panel was moderated by Gadsden Arts Curator Angie Barry and include exhibiting artist Mark Messersmith, Viki Wylder of the Museum of Fine Arts FSU, and Janet Bowman from The Nature Conservancy. Included with the price of admission and open to the public, Sara May Love Gallery, 1st floor.
View photos on Flickr.
Saturday October 20, 10:30am & 11:30am
In depth Gallery Talk with Mark Messersmith (10:30am): Included with the price of admission and open to the public, Bates Community Room, 2nd floor.
In depth Gallery Talk with Carrie Ann Baade (11:30am): Included with the price of admission and open to the public, Bates Community Room, 2nd floor.
Arts Career Night
Thursday November 8, 4-8pm
College students and emerging art and museum professionals are invited to Arts Career Night at the Gadsden Arts Center & Museum from 4-8pm. From 4-7pm, sign up to have your portfolio, CV, and/or resume reviewed by a local arts professional, and then join us for a panel discussion at 7pm focusing on careers in the arts and museums. The galleries and ArtZone will be open throughout the night to view the Art as Social Commentary exhibitions and create your own artwork.