Beings: A Thirty Year Survey of Paintings

- Thoughts from the artist, Mark Spencer

    The conflict between nature and human nature has become a threat to our planet and, I believe, an eminent block to our evolution as a species. 

    The human ego, and especially the male ego’s need to dominate nature is driven by fear, greed and an insatiable lust for power. Men and women alike can succumb to this, but what is needed is balance. Balance of male and female energies is an ideal that is reflected in my work. 

    I believe that there is a driving force within every human being to be creative and connected. It is a drive to achieve oneness with Creation. I’ve learned from experience that while I’m in the “zone”, in the process of making art, I’m at one with the Universe. It is a feeling of connectedness and love that keeps me coming back for more. The result, the art, is a hybrid reality, a bridge between the world of personal experience and the collective spiritual dream. It unites the known with the unknown.

    Almost all of my works have their beginnings as small thumbnail sketches, which is a device I use to find something I’ve never seen before. These thumbnails are pencil on paper usually about three to four inches in height and or width. This scale allows me to focus on imagining an action or a scene. They usually start with a sense of composition, a certain energy that drives my meandering pencil. It’s a kind of purposeful automatic doodling. I’m inspired by the suggestions of different shapes, figures, actions and designs: mostly their ambiguity. 

    These drawings are not about a particular event or story; they are about certain feelings that I have a need to reveal. The lines and movement will then suggest something to me. It might be a group of figures or an architectural element that brings with it an association of some place or archetypal event. I’ll use the thumbnail sketch to fish the river of life and hook onto some underlying imperative that will make its way to the surface. As I gain understanding of my catch, the title comes to me. At this point I gain awareness of what part of the conflict between Nature and human nature that I’m dealing with. The image then begins to evolve and take on a life of its own. It becomes a being.


The Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, Old Pecos Trail, Santa Fe, NM, USA


March - May 2020

Mark Spencer: Beings coincides with the publication of his new book, Beings: The Art of Mark Spencer (Fresco Books, 2019).

photo: Clark Baughan, CCA

Redondo, 2006 and Arrival, 2008 installed in the CCA Tank Garage Gallery

Since 1969, Mark Spencer has been producing work that is compelling, beautiful, and sometimes disturbing. His creative vision encompasses high realism and broad abstraction. He believes that “the soul’s hand can reach down into our fertile depths to retrieve images that may heal the divide and transform our consciousness.”

video: Antonio Weiss, Paragweiss Media

Mark has described his work as a type of post-Surrealism. Surrealism is generally defined to be a formal process stressing the subconscious or non-rational significance of imagery arrived at by automatism, the exploitation of chance effects, or unexpected juxtapositions. There is a use of the unconscious in Mark's process, and chance effects in painting. But you find this in non-objective painting and painting in general. Yet this would explain part of his process or the inscrutable quality of some of his images.

Clayton Campbell, Beyond Metaphor essay for Beings
Thumbnail Sketches
All Photography Courtesy of James Hart Photography, Santa Fe, NM unless stated otherwise