Mark Barone, a narrative artist for over 35 years, has received numerous prestigious grants and awards for artistic excellence and his work exhibited nationally and internationally. He has impacted the Arts dramatically throughout his acclaimed career and in late 2017, Mark’s art for advocacy work will be featured in an upcoming PBS documentary!
Mark is also the creator of the national model for revitalizing blighted cities; using the arts, which won the “American Planning Association Award” the “Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence” and the “Governor Award in the Arts,” to name just a few.
Meet the Artist: NY Elite Interview with Mark Barone
NY Elite: Tell us a little about yourself and your career beginnings.
Mark Barone: I received my BFA from the University of Minnesota and my MFA from Southern Illinois University. I am a narrative painter, and right from the beginning, I felt compelled to paint about the struggles of the human condition and the social dynamics and dysfunction that we all encounter. For an artist, that isn’t the easiest path to take, but I had no interest in the more superficial aspects of life. Also, I only paint with oils.
NY Elite: What projects are you currently working on?
Mark Barone: A series of work that reflects how people in positions of power, and influence shy away from any responsibility, and instead, crucify others they have used as pawns and scapegoats. This body of work speaks to the the repeated power struggles that have been occurring over hundreds of years and are indicative of our lack of consciousness.
The other is a project that is close to my heart. I painted 5500 portraits of shelter dogs to illustrate the approximate number killed every day in our shelters, and to incite change. I created a charity and use the artwork as a way to raise funds for rescue groups/shelters and I work with schools/universities to show students how to use their art for social change.
NY Elite: What art do you most identify with?
Mark Barone: I most identify with art that is trying to say something, to move the viewer to think and reflect, and hopefully take some action.
NY Elite: What themes do you pursue?
Mark Barone: I pursue themes that are connected to social change; injustices, power struggles, and human dynamics/dysfunction and consciousness.
NY Elite: What’s your favorite art work?
Mark Barone: My favorite artwork is the series I am currently working on.
NY Elite: Tells us about some of your recent exhibitions. What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Mark Barone: I recently painted 5500 portraits for compassion and that project has garnered media attention from around the World, and PBS/Sagacity productions have been filming a documentary about my journey and the four years it took me to paint them all. (If I hung the exhibit, linearly, it would be the length of two football fields).
NY Elite: Tell us about one of your projects which you are very proud of?
Mark Barone: I am most proud of my work that I painted and donated to the charity, An Act of Dog, (5500 portraits of shelter dogs). I did not have the means to take on such an enormous project, but I couldn’t turn away and not do anything. I made the commitment to be a voice for them and to use my art for their salvation.
NY Elite: What does “being creative” mean to you?
Mark Barone: For me, being creative means to look at an issue and find unique ways to make connections and give an alternate perspective on the problem that will move the viewer to go inside themselves and ask what can they do to be a part of the solution.
NY Elite: What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
Mark Barone: I work 8-10 hours a day, no matter how I am feeling. I make the commitment to paint and show up for the unfolding of the creative process.
NY Elite: What are you trying to communicate with your art?
Mark Barone: I am trying to show that, everyone and everything is connected and to compartmentalize life is an error. We have to come together and get engaged in a way that contributes to our collective happiness and a higher consciousness. Looking way, cognitive dissonance, or the focus on self, over community, does not serve us as a whole, and merely perpetuates the decline of our humanity.
NY Elite: What role does the Artist have in Society?
Mark Barone: I believe that artists have a powerful medium for reporting on the consciousness of our current civilization and can paint visual records of the unpalatable realities of our time. The role of the artist is to wake the viewer up and to move them to feel those realities and engage them in a dialogue for change.
NY Elite: What are your thoughts on being an artist in today’s world?
Mark Barone: Our world today is filled with all kinds of social issues, and artists can use their talents as an instrument for change and help raise the volume on injustices that are being swept under the rug or kept out of mainstream media. Unfortunately, many schools are removing art programs and denying children the power of creativity. Kids are the unwrapped gifts of the future and I believe that, it is critically important to put meaningful art back into schools to allow them the process of self-discovery and to connect them to what matters and what lights them up.
NY Elite: How has painting influenced your life?
Mark Barone: Painting has done so much for me. It is my life! It has allowed me to look more deeply into life and given me a way to speak to issues that I feel compelled to address and to invoke the viewer to do the same.
NY Elite: What kind of art is unappealing to you?
Mark Barone: I am turned off by art that is created for decoration or for the sake of selling to the masses. In my opinion, it is empty, soulless art that lacks originality and purpose. No matter what style of painting an artist uses, be it abstract, photo-realism, or any other, they all have the ability to say something with their work. I prefer to have my artistic talents used as a channel for something purposeful and allow the technique and skills to merely enhance the message.
NY Elite: What art movement or artist would you say influences your work most?
Mark Barone: I admire the painters of the New York School, the German Expressionists, Anselm Kiefer, and Leon Golub.
NY Elite: What can we expect from you in 2017?
Mark Barone: In 2017, I will be showing my current work that has to do with those in power and the scapegoats. Also, the PBS documentary will be airing in October and will highlight the work our charity is doing to help save shelter animals, and hopefully we can get the help we need to get the exhibit up and create an interactive space for education, fundraising and inspirational purposes.
NY Elite: Can you share with us three favorite things about your city/culture?
Mark Barone: What I enjoy about New Mexico is the landscape and natural beauty. (I also love the wide open dog park we frequent). I really love and appreciate the Spanish and Native American people and culture, and the great adobe architecture.