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 Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore,Md. in 1983. He also spent a semester studying 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. For the past two decades,Mr.Rooney has taught at numerous colleges and art schools in the Washington,D.C. area. He has been a regular part-time faculty member at Montgomery College in Takoma Park,Md. since 1987 and is also currently Adjunct Professor of drawing and design at the Maryland College of Art and Design in Silver Spring,Md. In addition, he has taught art to children, the elderly, and people with Alzheimers disease and other physical and psychological impairments since 1988 and regularly gives lectures and tours of area art museums with Elderhostel, based locally at Trinity College, Washington,D.C. He has exhibited his art locally, nationally, and internationally since 1979. His most notable exhibitions in the greater Washington,D.C. 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 shows at Signal 66 Art Space in 1999 and District Fine Arts Gallery in September,2000. He has also shown his work nationally at galleries in Philadelphia,Pa., Baltimore, Md., Richmond,Va. and Chicago, Ill. Internationally he has had exhibits in Munich,Germany and most notably a two-person exhibit at the Shirdirani Gallery in New Delhi, India in 1998. This exhibit and a concurrent 5-week stay in India has informed Mr.Rooney's work ever since. 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 concering 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 in the title, giving the viewer a starting point for interpertation. 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 the soul or consciousness as existing seperately from the body and the world we experience with our senses. Drawing on sources as diverse as Hinduism, Buddhism, Renaissance painting, Rene Descartes, Einstein's theory of relativity, and his own Roman Catholic upbringing, he attempts in his work to make manifest the Hindu concept of the Maya, or the world as illusion. A belief that so-called "waking life" is a dream, no more "real" than the dreams we have when we sleep, is the core belief at the root of his painterly and philosophical investigations. He quotes traditional religious iconography as well as media-based images in an attempt to question what contemporary society worships and why. He combines realism and abstract expressionism as a method of creating and dispelling visual illusions often in the same work. By layering materials such as color pencil, pastel, and acrylic paint, he endeavors to create forms that are tangible and intangible, both solid and ephemeral. Mr. Rooney believes that the many lives we lead are a journey toward goodness and each dream of life we experience is a challenge and a test preparing us for the ultimate reality of non-being.