The Union: #16 Mark Rebennack

Mark Rebennack

Since we had to postpone our first art show—The Union—we’ve decided to turn this into an opportunity to digitally showcase all the artists who’d submitted to the show.

We all know the elephant in the room. Actually, the parade of elephants in the room with us all right now. The current health crisis and the centuries-long injustices that have both come to a head, along with all of the other issues that have been exposed, or which have exposed us, are heavy on my mind and on my heart. I mentioned to a friend recently that artists are sponges of our culture. Although our art may not look or speak to political or social issues directly (and that’s okay), our thoughts and ideas are formed as a reflection and interpretation of our culture. We watch, listen, read and involve ourselves in everything going on around us and then meditate, percolate, filter, compartmentalize, analyze and interpret this information. Then we act. We create. We communicate and express. We provide visual language in hopes that others will relate. We provide opportunities for others to see our thoughts and our reflections and maybe find their own reflections in our work. 

My own journey these last few months looks far from what I had envisioned. As an art teacher, I’ve had to develop and create an online format to be able to teach my students. As a parent, I’ve gotten to see my kids take on new challenges with school while also seeing their normally-packed calendar of other activities (soccer, dance, volleyball, etc.) go blank. As an artist I’ve had to wrestle with all of the extra time on my hands and the internal pressure to make the most of this opportunity. As we all know, creativity and inspiration cannot be forced, but there’s always work to be done. Mentally, emotionally, socially, physically and creatively.

So here’s a little bit of what I’ve been up to during these months. First, I had a group show open in the UK (my first overseas!) to good reviews, however, it only lasted a few weeks before the gallery had to close due to the pandemic. The show was moved to an online format and played out its remaining time virtually. This was a true wake up call of the seriousness this global health crisis, while also showing me that the resiliency of artists and the arts community is strong.

Second, I had been invited and accepted to participate in The Other Art Fair Los Angeles in April. If you don’t know of this art fair, it’s put on through Saatchi Art and tends to draw tens of thousands of art collectors, dealers and galleries over the course of 3 days. I had been preparing for this by making some new larger pieces, and was excited for the opportunity to get some local eyes on my work. Unfortunately, this was also moved to a virtual studios event with hopes to still hold the live fair in the fall. Nonetheless, the online version was well organized and advertised, even featuring my work and an interview with me on their homepage. These opportunities were not offered to all participants, so I was honored to have been chosen. Also, through this fair I was able to expand my collector network and am still receiving orders from collectors here in the US and from as far away as India and New Zealand.

Finally, I feel like I’ve settled into a good creative work/life balance. I have come to terms with the pressure to use this opportunity to crank out more work by staying consistent in the time I take in the studio while also taking the time to run, read, watch movies, hang out with my family and take care of myself. I’ve been able to finish some new pieces and explore some new techniques. Since the protests and social unrest hit, I’ve been able to sell some work in order to donate to organizations and nonprofits that I believe can make a difference. I’ve also taken the opportunity to collect some work from other artists who are also donating to these causes. Once again, my eyes have been opened and my heart has been inspired by the importance and sincerity of artists in times like these. We are not only sponges of our culture, we are also mirrors, reflecting back to the world what it needs to see, in sometimes raw, or other times sensitive ways. 

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