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Faded Pictures from a Life: The Sarcastic Expressionist

The Sarcastic Expressionist

1969-70

In my sophomore and junior years and I began producing large quantities of work. Looking back I think it may have been quantity rather than quality that created some of my successes. Having most of my foundation classes under my belt I began taking some electives. I was most interested in painting and printmaking. The teacher for both of these areas was a figurative expressionist and I readily fell under his influence. I was also under the influence of the dissatisfaction that I shared with many of my generation. The Vietnam War, racial strife, greed and poverty all made me feel a revulsion to the controlling older generations. So when I started developing a style it was a sarcastic expressionism with a cartoonish tinge. Maybe the closest historical artist was the German, Otto Dix, but his work was miles and miles above mine. I created imagery of fat naked old men screaming at each other, grotesque and vain women buying shoes, and other equally repugnant paintings and prints.

The first real exhibition I had was a two person show with my old Herd friend who was also an art student. We were perfect pair both stylistically and sarcastically. The show was not held at one of the college galleries but at the Catholic Aquinas Center on the edge of campus. The priest there was an exceptional man. It was rumored that after the American Indian Movement occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 he gave sanctuary to some of warriors who were fleeing the FBI in the Aquinas Center. He was the epitome of the leftist priest and he was delighted to host a show of our blatantly and outrageously anti-establishment artwork. Two noted pieces in the exhibition were my painting of a naked old man nailed to a cross with a MasterCard over his head (what would I do without my Visa card today!) and my friend’s painting of a nude woman with her legs spread and a 7up bottle covering her vagina. The show was loved and hated. The Aberdeen Knights of Columbus threatened to chain the doors of the center closed. The priest would not budge and the show remained up. The priest was eventually banished to a small town east of Aberdeen by the bishop. I fear our show may have been on the long list of reasons for the exile.

The Sarcastic Expressionist, acrylic on shuen paper, 12″x9″, 2021, Mark W McGinnis


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