About a year ago I was challenged by a publisher to produce a painting that was a twist on Basquiat. I knew who Jean Michel Basquiat was but I knew very little about his art.
I produced three Basquiat-inspired works for this assignment and during that week I became a great admirer of his art and very intrigued by his life and influences.
He was born just a year after I was – if he was alive today, we’d be pretty much the same age. But our experiences were vastly different.
When I opened my own studio, I knew I wanted to explore this avenue further – partly because Basquiat fascinated me, and partly because working in this style is just so darn fun.
Psycho Bunny is an homage to Basquiat, but it also reflects my playfulness and sense of humor. I got the inspiration from a shirt I saw at Bloomingdales. I wanted to create a piece that would make people smile but also intrigue them, leave them wondering, “What does he mean by that?”
Maybe it’s all nonsense – maybe I don’t mean anything – or maybe it’s a deep commentary. Either way, it’s fun to look at!
While some of my paintings are carefully composed and take months to complete (see I Want the Strings), much of my work is more emotional and fluid than analytical and planned.
This work was originally an old abstract that I had started and placed aside. For months it sat rolled up in the corner of my studio. One day, while I was in between commissions, I decided to recycle some canvasses and pulled this one from the corner, tacked it up on the wall, and started re-priming it.
As I applied primer to the canvas, I liked the way the blocks of white looked against the blue background – so I decided to play with that. I took orange and black oil sticks and drew some lines…they looked like stick figures and I just kept drawing. A dock began to emerge, and then I drew the shape of a fish and a few other lines, and started painting around the lines.
The work took on a life of its own and within a couple hours, I knew the painting was done. It reminded me of my father and I fishing on the pier in Cape Canaveral when I was a boy – the only activity that both of us truly enjoyed together. It became the springboard for a series of best selling images, and is still one of my favorites. It currently hangs in the lobby of the Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach and still generates great reactions (and calls!)
Mark: This is an example of patience and embracing the long journey of creation. Rhythm is a ‘recycled’ painting. The original, which I painted over 10 years ago, had been in storage for years. When I opened my Winter Park gallery in 2016, I pulled it out of storage. I kept looking at it, feeling that I needed to do SOMETHING with it. It wasn’t speaking the right voice.
Over several months, the ideas kept germinating and one day, I jumped from idea to action. I had only one thought: bring more light, more life – take away the darkness. In under 4 hours, she became a new person, brighter, but also more mysterious. I put the brush down, posted it on Instagram and, within days, Rhythm was sold to a wonderful interior designer who used it for a photo shoot and then placed it in the home of a client.
To me, that’s the perfect journey for a painting – it comes from my heart, but speaks to others and eventually lives in a place where it is viewed and loved daily.
Judy: I first saw the ‘painting-that-was-to-become-Rhythm’ when we set up the gallery on Cherry St and had no love for the it – too muddy, too dark, too flat. It was so unlike a lot of Mark’s other work – it felt foreign. Mark’s reinvention turned it into one of my favorites, and I was thrilled that others loved it as well. He is much more patient than I am – I would have tossed it years ago – but he knew the potential was there for something better, it just needed the right timing.