BEAUTY AND VULNERABILITY
BY MARK MESSERSMITH
EXPRESSIONS OF SPIRIT AND STRUGGLE IN THE “NATURAL” ENVIRONMENT
Mark Messersmith transports you, as if by drone technology, to some other place in our North Florida rural environment. With the spatial freedom of a bird you go on a journey-- often high atop trees or utility poles. Your joy at being up there turns uncomfortable as you find that you are a witness up close to the eternal competition for survival among his (quite symbolic) terrestrial animals and birds. Below and far away in the landscape Messersmith’s story continues with self- concerned human development causing the habitat of the animals you are with to shrink and just fade away.
Messersmith paints for you to explore a dense and tangled world that shows the beauty of the natural environment, and also highlights its fragility and vulnerability. Each painting develops a narrative that is personally inventive and suggests the eternal in its scope as in possibly witnessing the ruin of mankind. The realistic painting style, complex imagery, and electric colors draw one in emotionally and produce heightened delight and concern.
The roots of his narrative style go back a long way to the illuminated manuscripts of the 15th Century. The tendency to embellish the central scene with frame images and a predella that continues the narrative also originate there. Its interesting that he says he relates to a parade of 19th Century Northeastern American painters who came to the South and painted romantic visions of the southern landscape. The best known of these would be Martin Johnson Heade, George Iness, Thomas Moran and Winslow Homer.
Mark Messersmith was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1955 and currently lives and works in Tallahassee, Florida, where he teaches painting and drawing at Florida State University. He holds a BFA in painting from Fontbonne College in St. Louis and an MFA in painting from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Over the years he has mentored countless students who have gone on to make a mark in the art world and the education of artists.
Mark received a Joan Mitchel Award in 2006 and he has a long exhibition record. The titles of a few recent shows from 2013 are illuminating. They include Southern Obsession at Valley House Gallery in Houston,Texas, Contemporary Still Life at the Grace Museum in Abilene, Texas, and, (most appropriate), Where Have All The Birds Gone? At the Zadok Gallery, Miami, Florida.