When modern art and modern technology collide: a St. Louis-based artist discovered the web portfolio of a Philadelphia-based writer, reached out to her by email, and conducted a gallery tour over FaceTime.
I suppose this scenario is humdrum at this stage in our human and technological evolutions, but this writer (who only reads hard copy books and opts for the low-tech option whenever offered) nonetheless appreciated the cross-country, cross-media gesture - so much so that I have postponed the last two installments in my East Africa series to shine a light on Mark Travers’ “A New Land” collection.
Like many artists, Mark Travers studied fine arts formally and found a way to stay in touch with his creative roots in the corporate setting. He spent 30-plus years in advertising, during which he took dozens of early flights to meet with clients. (Even if we had modern art at the time, modern technology was not yet the underpinning of how business gets done.)
When Mark Travers shared this with me, I couldn’t help but think of the 2009 film, Up in the Air. Like George Clooney’s character, Mark Travers took in countless farmland panoramas and urban scapes from high above. He was impressed and enriched by our purple mountains’ majesty (among other scenes) but lacked the stamina or time to channel their inspiration given his full-time workload. That is until he sold his advertising business in 2010 in order to devote himself to his craft.
Mark Travers’ latest collection, “A New Land,” appeared at St. Louis’ Houska Gallery from March 31-May 19, 2023, as part of its “Feed Your Head” exhibition. “A New Land” is Mark Travers’ interpretation of a “bright, bold new image of America in a post-pandemic world.” The colors in the collection’s paintings provide an “antidote to the pessimism” gripping the country during COVID lockdowns, re-envisioning landscapes “rejuvenated” from above with colors “representational of optimism, variety, and a wide variety of images and thoughts.” In other words: America is a new land with a new hope post-pandemic.
Mark Travers was keen to mention that he prioritized neither farmland nor plains nor coastal imagery in his work. A fan of jewel tones, my eyes went straight to the blues, purples and greens in the paintings before the yellows or oranges, none of which come to mind when I think “Americana” (which is why Travers is the one with the contemporary collection!)
Though Mark Travers is looking forward to the America of the future, he credits American mid-century architects and textile designers as the collection’s primary inspiration. “A New Land” also features sculptures made from medium-density fiberboard, some of which are direct companion pieces to the collection’s paintings. Others are borrowed from Travers’ prior “Reliquary” series, which pays tribute to ancient Buddhist and Near East scholars with a contemporary twist.
As someone who splits her time between corporate and creative work, I asked Mark Travers what advice he would give to anyone considering making a full-time plunge. Aside from the financial considerations of abandoning steady income, Mark Travers mentioned the solitude of the studio or writing desk, which requires the creative to use her time wisely or else be tempted to “fritter” it away.
“A New Land” represents over two years of relative solitude. Travers calculates that he spends up to four years devoted to the 15-50 pieces of any one of his collections.
Mark Travers’ next Rockies to scale: creating floor-mounted 3-D sculptures, making prints of “A New Land,” and branching beyond his current hubs in St. Louis, Scottsdale, Arizona, New York and Los Angeles and sharing his work with broader national and European audiences.