Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 36
Art on the insideThe C Gallery showcases 20-plus years of works by abstract expressionist and minimalist Dara Mark
BY JOE PAYNE
Abstract expressionism is a slippery snake in the art world. It defies easy categorization, and it’s tough for people to get a grip on one definition or another.
The C Gallery is currently showing the exhibit “Dara Mark 1986-2008–Following an Art Career” through the beginning of December. The show features a range of Mark’s abstract expressionist and minimalist art collected over the years by C Gallery owner Connie Rohde.
“I’ve known Dara for a long time, when she first moved here close to 30 years ago,” Rohde said, “and I would go and visit her, and we just connected. Her work just resonates with me.”
Rohde was also the founding director of the nonprofit Arts Outreach, which allowed Mark to be a California Arts Council Artist-in-Residence based in the Santa Ynez Valley where she lived at the time. The more friendly Mark and Rohde became, the more they discussed and connected over minimalism and abstract expressionism, and the more Rohde’s collection of art by Mark grew.
“When you look at the art, you get a sense of, well, the metaphysical,” Rohde said. “How do you paint thinking; how do you paint meditating? It’s never a question of ‘what is it?’ because it immediately takes you there.”
Mark didn’t start out with the drawings and paintings much of Rohde’s collection includes, but with ceramics. She received a BA from Yale University and an MFA from UCSB, both focused on ceramics, and her first art show was in 1978.
“I’ve gone through some changes,” Mark said. “I started out with ceramics; I’ve been drawing a long time, but I’ve only been painting since 2001.”
Even Mark herself doesn’t exactly agree with the term “abstract expressionism” to define her art.
“I really prefer non-objective,” she said, “because abstract implies that there is a real reference in the work; like an abstracted tree is still a tree. Non-objective doesn’t start with reference to anything. It just is something.”
Mark’s more recent works have been watercolors painted onto a specific translucent, non-porous paper that doesn’t allow them to absorb in. Instead, they sit on the surface. She layers several of these sheets of paper, all painted on, to convey a sense of depth.
“My work developed more from the qualities of the paints, the transparency of the paper, the kinds of shapes I use, how they relate to each other, but it doesn’t refer to anything else,” Mark explained.
Several pieces in the exhibit include art that could be considered minimalism. Inspired by Agnes Martin, a famous such artist who died in 2004, Mark drew many pastel and prismacolor panels that include the use of small, repetitive marks on the canvas.
“I have some 18-inch panels,” Rohde said, “and when you look at them from far, you see a wave, an undulating dark pattern. But when you get up close, you notice it’s not a scribble, but tiny individual circles.”
While Rohde views such works as meditative, she’d agree with Mark that the work could mean anything; it all depends on who’s looking.
“I really do encourage people to approach the work from their own history, their own level of engagement of it, and I think that makes the work very rich,” Mark said. “People see all kinds of things that I never see there, but I am happy they do it.”
One current that runs through the abstract world, and still remains controversial, is the creative control given to the viewers. Are they viewing it right? Viewing it wrong? Is either even possible?
“At this stage of the game for me, at my age, I don’t want art to prescribe to me what to think,” Rohde said. “I want to figure that out for myself. I want art to take me somewhere.”
Mark now lives near Santa Fe, N.M. She’s involved with an art group called the Lady Minimalists Tea Society, a collection of women inspired by Agnes Martin. They show their art together at the annual international art fair Art Santa Fe. But for art lovers on the Central Coast, the C Gallery holds an opportunity to see a range of art spanning decades.
“I think it is interesting to see the progression of an artist—the mercurial changes, the depth changes, and the impact changes,” Rohde said. “There is something very soft about the newer work; it’s very dreamy.”
Arts Editor Joe Payne is made up of tiny, individual circles. Contact him at email@example.com.