Mark Rooney


Many Worlds (1999)
76" x 46", mixed media on paper

Following a life-long interest in art that began during his childhood, Mark Rooney began painting seriously in 1975. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia in 1981 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Maryland Institute, College of Art, in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1983. He also spent a semester studing art in Rome, Italy in 1980. Since 1983, Mark has combined a painting and teaching career that together forms the nucleus of his artistic niche. He has been a regular part-time faculty member in Fine Art at Montgomery College in Takoma Park, Maryland since 1987. In addition, he has taught art to children, the elderly, and people with Alzheimer's disease and other physical and psychological impairments since 1988. He has exhibited his art locally and nationally in numerous exhibitions in various venues since 1979. His most notable exhibitions in the Greater Washington, DC area include shows at the Washington Project for the arts in 1990, the Anton Gallery and the District of Columbia Arts Center in 1991, and most recently, Mount Vernon College and the John Wilson Community Art Center in 1996. His most recent art--a series of large-scale mixed media works on paper--uses visual narrative involving an elaborate system of pictorial symbols to tell individual stories, supporting a general thesis concerning the human condition. Each individual piece can be read quite literally merely by deciphering the symbols which are presented in a fairly straightforward manner and are arranged to tell a story. Frequently, the content or general theme of each piece is suggested verbally in the title, giving the viewer a starting point for interpretation. His overriding concern with use of images and techniques is to create a cohesive pictorial language that, as clearly as possible, embodies his world view and especially his concept of human consciousness as a limited, frail, and highly imperfect state of being. The tension in his stories arises from the conflict that exists when reality cannot match the human mind's ability to imagine. It is the archetypical late 20th century theme of coming to grips with a godless universe. Within each story, he expresses this large theme through repeated use of symbols, motifs, and techniques. Frequently used symbols include partially constructed roads that lead to uncertain futures, couples struggling for union, objects, animals, trees and people that float--unrooted, divided selves with instinct and intellect at war. He reinforces the ideas that these images suggest by employing techniques mirroring the theme of duality and uncertainty. Through the use of cast shadows and perspective, he tries to create spaces that are both infinite and confined at the same time. By layering materials such as color pencil, pastels and ink, he endeavors to create forms that are tangible and intangible, both solid and ephemeral. By employing the cubist tradition of simultaneous views, he attempts to root his settings in the here and now while all around the ghosts of past and future experience intrude. Like his cultural heroes and artistic mentors, Henry Miller, Jackson Pollock, and Jasper Johns, he disguises both a deep-rooted tenderness and a terrible fury beneath a veil of beautiful color and line.

A selection of Mark Rooney's works

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