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The Apocalyptic Landscape: Paintings by Mark Messersmith at Loyola University New Orleans

Loyola press release - October 10, 2000

The Apocalyptic Landscape: Paintings by Mark Messersmith
October 16, 2000 - January 12, 2001
Collins C. Diboll Gallery and Visual Arts Center
Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans, 6363 St. Charles Ave.
Opening reception and gallery walk through with Mark Messersmith,
Monday, October 16, 7-9 p.m.

(New Orleans)—"The Apocalyptic Landscape: Paintings by Mark Messersmith" are tilted perspectives of the present eerily lit vistas of Florida pines, rivers that seem to be aflame, mythologies are reenacted on back roads through sulphurous swamps and treacherously banal subdivisions. Mark Messersmith’s vivid and fantastic landscapes are surreal narratives with ominous implications.

The leading characters in Messersmith’s paintings are the indigenous faunas of his adopted state of Florida—herons, raccoons, bobcats, alligators, snakes, owls and large mouthed bass. Their dance of life and death is performed with neon baroque extravagance as logging trucks and highways wind through the backgrounds and helicopters crowd the improbably hued sky. They don’t seem to notice, being intensely engaged in more pressing primordial preoccupations, primarily the food chain.

The theme of environmental violation is quite evident throughout his work. The immediacy of his bravura brushwork reinforces the urgency of his thematic material. There is a paradoxical tension between his contemporary wilderness settings and allusions to medieval and renaissance works found in the series of small paintings and constructions. These serve as both borders and footnotes to the primary images, formal references to illuminated manuscripts and books of hours from the late 14th and early 15th centuries.

Canvasses are topped with sculptural elements, pediments that echo and extend the scenarios found within the painted rectangle, references to icons and altarpieces, as well as to carvings of Indonesia, in which it is impossible to distinguish the boundaries of art and the accoutrements of daily life.

Messersmith is an increasingly acclaimed painter with an extensive exhibition record in Florida and the Southeastern United States. His exhibition venues have included: The Arts Council, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; The Jacksonville Museum of Art, Jacksonville, Florida; the Florida Gulf Coast Arts Center, Bellair, Florida; the Pensacola Museum of Art, Pensacola, Florida; the Visual Arts Gallery of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the Biggin Gallery of Auburn University. He is an associate professor of painting at Florida State University in Tallahassee. He is winner of the prestigious Southern Arts Federation Award as well as an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Florida Arts Council.

The Apocalyptic Landscape project director is Carol Leake, chair of the Department of Visual Arts at Loyola. The project is funded by Loyola’s Biever Guest Lecture Series and Department of Visual Arts’ Visiting Artist Committee. It is co-sponsor by Loyola’s Environmental Studies Program that is chaired by Professor John Clark.