Mari Marks: A Reflection by Terri Cohn

Artist's Statement by Mari Marks

Mari Marks: A Reflection

By Terri Cohn
(Terri Cohn is a San Francisco based writer, curator, and art historian. She has been a contributing editor to Artweek since 1988, and her writings have appeared in numerous other publications including Sculpture, Release Print, Art Papers, New Art Examiner, and Camerawork. She has written and lectured extensively about Conceptual art and new genre public art, and contributed a chapter to Women Artists of the American West (McFarland & Co., Inc., 2003)
Mari Marks encaustic and mixed media works consistently evoke a sense of suspended time. Marks employs the plastic qualities and translucent properties of wax as a medium in which to form textures and suspend materials and pigments in ways that elicit memory.  

In her earlier series such as Intervals and Of Time, Nature, and the Space Between, Marks embedded ginko leaves and other natural elements in layers of beeswax and pigment as means to create compositions of rhythmic regularity, and to induce a quality of recollection.  Her choice of the ginko leaf to symbolize memory is materially matched by the way she floats these elements in the liminal space between surface and ground; vitality and decay. Marks creates a quality of golden luminescence with layers of wax, which diffuse and refract the light.  This captures a mood that suggests discrete experiences of time, place, and emotional resonance that have a parallel with natural phenomena and cycles.  She explains her interest in working this way as, "nature heals and sustains me."

Marks' recent Sedimentary Series reveals her continuing interest in natural materials and their expressive potentials.  It simultaneously suggests her move away from more fragile and ephemeral elements and attraction to such earth based elements as graphite and soil.  She uses these materials--graphite, red brick clay granules, ashes, and asphalt--as finely ground substances, suspended in solutions of denatured alcohol, water, and citrus solvent that are applied and allowed to dry.  Then she uses heat and light to manipulate these mediums, which results in patterns of melting and flow.  The more minimal compositions, such as Quartet, reveal her attraction to fundamental textural exploration and mark making.  In others, like the diptych Nocturne, Marks suggests the duality of landscape over time as it moves from dark and scabrous to luminous and delicately incised.  With its juxtaposition of convoluted and simple planes and transition from accumulation to pared down, this work also reveals Marks' sculptural interests.  

The Sediments and Circles portion of this series is alternately assertive and somber, depending on her use of color and the viscosity of the wax. Each segment of the gridded composition contains a textured circle, created with heat held in place until the wax flows.  Some, like Sediments and Circles - Red, are bold and playful, while others like Sedimentary Series - Graphite and Sediments and Circles-Natural, suggest celestial or microscopic worlds.  

Marks describes how her work in this series was influenced by the events of 9/11, and how the layers of small particles that comprise these paintings suggest what is lost and what remains.  It is meaningful that such manmade disaster is paralleled in the natural processes that create Marks' primary materials and form the core of her work.  Her media and creative process become metaphors for her sense of personal affinity with the solidity yet ever shifting disposition of nature's materials and cycles.

Terri Cohn, 2005

Artist's Statement


Through over 15 years of working with beeswax I have explored pattern in layering beeswax, pigment and natural materials. In my most recent work I have brought my work with beeswax to its elemental essences. In reducing my work to the elements of color, heat, and sedimentary deposit, I value the materiality, the process, and the natural laws underlying the formation of the natural world.

In The Spectrum Studies, the imagery is reduced to the basic element of encaustic painting, color and layering. Multiple layers of pigment and interference pigments are evenly scraped to reveal subtle patterns created in the process of the even layering of the pigmented beeswax.

In The Sedimentary Series, pattern is created through fine sedimentary materials (graphite, ashes, earth) in layers on the wax, which in heating become part of the wax structure. In the larger pieces, the sediments may be incorporated into the wax or deposited through etched or carved mark making. Heat and light “burn in” the sediment deposits. In all these images, I explore natural processes implicit in creation of earth and geological features.

In Sediments and Circles, sedimentary materials are distributed evenly over the natural or pigmented wax. The fixed application of light and heat establishes currents within the wax, boiling as though in a volcanic cauldron. As the fine materials move within these currents they are deposited in the cooling wax, evidencing the pattern of fluid dynamics.

Sedimentary Series - Terra is comprised of twelve paintings. In this series I have explicitly explored the earth, seas, and atmosphere, especially the depletion of the earth through drought and flooding. In these works the pigmentation of the grounds refers to the tonalities of clay found in areas of the world where the ecosystems has become exhausted, as well as areas of fertility.  I engrave patterns of grasses, water or wind patterns in this ground. Layers of graphite in solution are applied and then wiped off as on a printing plate; a heat lamp is used to “burn in” these deposits. This process, like the depositing of sediments on grounds and resulting incorporation through water and heat are both systematic and impacted by natural processes.

 Through these processes the paintings unite aspects of subtle emergence, of control and the absence of control, of ritual enactment and the deep sense of flow and oneness crucial to my art. Through my paintings I seek to bring experiences of beauty, peace and healing; the music of our sphere, earth, the ground of our being

Mari Marks

May 15, 2008