Great or small, with triumphant applause or obscure anonymity, everyone wants to make their mark on the world.
“I never signed any of my stuff in art school and the habit just stuck. Everything was untitled,” says the artist recognized as Untitled Mark. Apparently the decision did not have any deep, secret meaning to him. “I just did it.” Or, moreover, he didn’t do it. What has become his nom de plume as a fine artist, Untitled Mark’s absence of an artist’s mark became his signature and he embraced the name.
“I’m an artist. I like to put my mark on everything. It doesn’t matter if it is paint, pencil, wood; it doesn’t matter. I put my mark on everything no matter the medium or material,” says Mark in his Hazel Street workspace surrounded by well-used welding equipment, finished pieces of his early art, and various fragments and shapes of metal and wood. In the center of the space there’s an old wheelchair, which he says is good for napping. Human-sized model planes hang from the ceiling that Mark rescued from his neighbor’s trash.
He sees beauty in salvaged material; it is the epicenter of his creativity. “New material is too boring and plain,” he says. “You don’t have that age—that soul that’s in old material that just pops out at you… and that’s what I look for.” Imperfections such as rust or dings are perfections to Mark.
His own imperfections moved him to become what he is today. Born in Washington State, Mark moved around the U.S. with his parents who were doctors, landing in Lancaster at a young age. He was then shipped off to boarding school in Connecticut as an effort to help with learning disabilities and was given several diagnosis throughout the years including A.D.H.D. He spent his high school years struggling with bullying and his father nearly died of cancer. As a teenager, Mark viewed his childhood as bad but now realizes his parents had attempted to give him a great childhood. Nevertheless, he struggled with those perceived demons and turned to drugs to cope, to find his high.
“I was living on rock bottom for quite some time,” says Mark, who celebrated ten years of sobriety on October 28, 2018. “I realized I couldn’t accomplish anything being on rock bottom. A light switch clicked, and I needed to do something with my life and art was what helped me get back.”
Creating a better life for himself became his goal. At the age of 25 he started taking evening classes at Pennsylvania College of Art and Design and shortly after enrolled full-time. He took welding classes at Harrisburg Area Community College. While working as a scenic artist at Tait Towers, he was presented with an opportunity that paved his artistic course. Mark was asked to furbish Rock Lititz. “It was the first time I ever made furniture. It was a big leap,” he says. “I got thrown in to the wolves.” The series of furnishings outfitted the production rehearsal space for the entertainment industry’s largest design facility.
Mark found his connection to art when he was young while building with LEGO blocks and Erector Sets. He is inspired by the work of Alexander Calder, the MoMA-collected, American sculptor widely regarded for his mobiles and public sculptures—with four nearby in Philly and one Swarthmore. Calder’s incorporation of movement transcended abstract expressionism and gave his art life. Mark’s art is a self-described visual contradiction between form and function, together with unlikely textures, shapes, and materials.
“I like to be able to use my hands and feel the mediums. I love clay, but after clay probably metal,” says Mark, who relishes the sense of accomplishment at being able to manipulate the materials he works with. Much of his work incorporates a distinct use of angles, raw metal zigs and zags with perceived abandon and direction. He aims to create visual contradictions between form and function. Length is a fluid concept. His subjects seem arbitrary, ranging from a heavy, pointed-nose skateboard made of repurposed wood and rough metal resting in a corner of his shop to commercial work in some of the area’s most recognizable businesses, like Spring House Brewing and American Bar and Grill. Size is dictated only by space and Mark’s will. “I don’t like anything having straight lines. I like to have that offset. It’s just for my sanity I guess.”
Art is what keeps him sane—his words. Art delivers the strength he needs never to return to the days of substance abuse.
“Art has been that one thing that has kept me strong, so I wouldn’t faulter or go back to hard drugs and alcohol,” says Mark, openly. “Everybody has their little happy place. Art is my happy place. I can go there and everything else dissolves and there is nothing wrong in the world.”
To view and purchase Untitled Mark’s work, visit www.untitledmark.com.