Continuing with our artist profiles of artists both living and working in the Hamptons, our next artist is Mark Perry, who lives in East Hampton
- Mark Perry was born in 1959, and raised in Providence, RI, where most of his family still resides, although he mentions that one sister and brother-in-law live in Washington, DC. He has been a resident of East Hampton for a number of years.
Artist Mark Perry at a recent exhibition of his work. Photo by Richard Lewin
While in high school in the 1970s Perry was part of a government funded program called The Center for Career Education in the Arts. In his case he had RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) alumni available at the center in the morning who would teach painting, illustration, life drawing, dance, theatre, and music. As Perry remembers "We had professional artists as teachers in the afternoon with academics in the morning and then a group of 11th graders would study and create art in the afternoon. The funding ran out after a few years but I was part of it for two years when it was its strongest."
After high school Perry studied electrical drafting and worked in that field for 10 years before moving to New York City
in 1989. While in Rhode Island he studied Portraiture and Life Drawing at RISD's evening division program, and in 1987 he was awarded the Milton Halladay prize for "Portrait of Bonnie" at The Providence Art Club's annual Open Painting Show. Currently, Perry is a member of the New Century Artists Gallery in New York City and the Artist Alliance of East Hampton
Perry feels a deep commitment to his community both on a local and national level, and was involved as a volunteer in President Barack Obama
's election campaign. He is a member of and exhibiting artist at New Century Artists, Inc. in NYC.
Commenting on his most recent endeavors Perry relayed "Currently I am making large-scale landscapes from photographs I have taken. Sometimes zooming in, in an attempt to bring the viewer closer to nature. I feel it is easy to be out in nature, a field, or the woods and see the big picture but not what is right in front of you. I feel the close-up brings the viewer in and encourages them to see and maybe think differently about their surroundings."
When did you start making art and what medium(s) do you consider to be your roots in art?
"Birch Forest Detail," 2008, oil on canvas, 84 x 84.
I was a shy kid with not a lot of direction but a lot of dreams. Most of my teenage years were spent drawing with charcoal, ballpoint pen or graphite. I did have many teachers in my creative life but in some ways l consider myself self-taught because it was not a formal education. I guess what I am saying is although I was not an outsider artist I did have to motivate myself.
I started using oil at the age of 25 and have continued with that medium. I've worked on varied surfaces; found objects, making 3-D relief paintings and glass paintings for instance. The past three years I have returned to traditional oil on canvas or wood painting, which feels uncomplicated and gratifying.
While drawing as a teenager I remember thinking I have to make it "right." My desire to be good was strong. Foundation was important and it was not easy as I was not a natural and wanted perfection. I had to work hard and was tough to please. People could tell me things were great but I knew better. When I did something that gratified me it helped me keep going. There came a time, with experience, when I realized the process was half the adventure and good things happen if I let them.
"Joan Crawford," 2008, oil on canvas, 84 x 64.
Early on I was influenced by the Renaissance painters for the love of the nude and composition. Holbein and Durer made a big impression on me. My mother gave me a great book on Holbein portrait drawings that is still a favorite.
In my 20s the Impressionists really spoke to me. The color and the freedom of the mark, and at the same time the skilled draftsmanship was a big influence. It freed me to see that painting did not have to be "perfect" to be good. Manet and Monet are heroic painters that I never tire of.
In my late 30s I started looking at contemporary, living artists. I guess my roots would be the solid painting of the old masters. I do not look at them much today but they informed the painter that I have become.
What is it about the Hamptons that brought you here and enticed you to stay, work, and pursue your art here as opposed to some place else?
Originally it was escaping from summer in the city and the love of the ocean. I've always been drawn to nature and given the option I would go in the direction of ocean as opposed to woods. Out here there are both amazing extremes and more. Great birds in the sky, big wild turkeys!
How do you support yourself as an artist?
That is a challenge. Presently I assist my partner with his business in East Hampton and of course try to sell paintings. Two years ago I cleaned apartments full-time, I was good, not much was happening creatively but I kept fit and humble. I stopped that and studied Shiatsu, practiced for a year, enjoyed the therapy but found it tough to get clients, make it work and paint. Today I am painting full-time. I've sold some large paintings in the past couple of years which lifts my spirits. It is easier to store small paintings than large ones, and I love working large, so when someone commits to a large painting - any painting for that matter - it is a commitment not to be taken lightly.
Why live and work in the Hamptons as opposed to elsewhere?
"Rondo Birch," 2009, oil on canvas.
I painted out in the sun for 15 years, today I am a studio painter and my light is generally artificial so I can work anywhere space allows. I have never had a difficult time in any location, and East Hampton is not tough. When bike riding or enjoying nature in my surroundings I am reminded of the beauty and how lucky I am. Honestly, winter is not as much fun and some of the rain I could live without, but nature makes it tolerable. The proximity to the city is amazing. The village of East Hampton is pretty, there's a decent hardware store, good food, coffee, summer is beautiful, playing tennis outdoors is fun, and maybe my game will improve and I won't break anything.
What local environmental or historical aspects of the Hamptons do you relate to that may be reflected in your medium?
There are few if any signs of people in my paintings and that is a choice. There was a time when I painted cityscapes and plein air beach paintings, although none were peopled. Today I choose to look at untouched nature so I guess I would say the effect has been environmental. I prefer to see architecture or people in the flesh or photos, as opposed to any way that I could depict them. At some point I will try portraiture again, the artist model connection can be special.
What artists do you feel have influenced you and your work?
"Grass Through Trunks," 2009, oil on canvas, 36 x 36.
When I was in my mid- to late 30s I wrote a letter to Lucien Freud after his retrospective at the Met and the show at Aquavella Gallery that was running simultaneously. I was a fan of his work before these shows. I never heard or expected to hear anything. I really didn't think that he would sit down and write a letter. I'd hoped he would receive it as it was written from the heart. I am glad I sent it. I paint nothing like that today but he helped me work a lot of things out with paint. I have one large, strong life-size nude portrait of a friend from that period. That painting would not have turned out the way it did if I had not looked so closely at his paintings. I didn't set out to make or copy his work - I feel it is my own. I am not as skillful but I am determined.
Presently, I like Allison Schulnik, a brilliant painter, she kills me with her love for painting. William Wood - a great NY painter known for a certain beautiful body of work. His foray into landscape I think is just wonderful. The German painters of The Leipzig School, Matthias Weischer, David Schnell, Neo Rauch - all amazingl. Will Cotton, Hilary Harkness are genius; Leah Giberson - a painter that I discovered searching the internet for artists was a great find for me - she paints on plywood - beautiful little slices of life. Jared Buckhiester's renderings of scenes with children, executed with the most incredible, strong yet delicate hand has also made an impression on me.
What advice would you give an emerging artist?
"Tricolor Landscape," 2008, oil on canvas, 70 x 70.
First of all, I must say that I am beginning to emerge, and always open to advice. I would say be fearless. Stay up all night and paint. You have your whole life to sleep. Technology today means that you can conceivably email the right person the right image and catch their interest immediately. Check out gallery websites, look at work, see what you like, where your work may be appropriate. Love what you paint. Everything I say was said to me and I try to live it. Regarding staying up all night, I was kidding, rest is important.
Emerging or established we are all students and for me the most important thing is to look at paintings. Go to museums and galleries, libraries, look at magazines to see what is happening. Look hard at paintings you like and think about how the painter made it. There is so much to learn from studying paintings.
What gives you and edge (if any)?
That is funny - sad but funny. Today I feel my age gives me an edge. I have worked hard and paint the way I do because it's all I've thought about my whole life. I guess that's an edge but I am constantly reminded of how much I don't know. Painting takes a lot of energy, there is nothing easy about it but the possibilities are endless and usually it's great. I have worked hard on myself and my art my whole life. Not long ago I thought a career as a painter was just a dream for me. I had very high hopes but today I see that there are many levels of success. I am a simple person at heart and have achieved personal success, and have great love in my life. That goes a long way.
What are you working on now, and are you involved in any upcoming shows or exhibitions?
I recently had a show entitled "Natural Surroundings" at New Century Artists, Inc. located at 530 West 25th Street in New York City. I will be part of a Designer Show house in Rumson, NJ. For the month of May I will be showing some large paintings. I am starting some small watercolor sketches of ideas that I will dive into, and the recent show has given me some new directions that I might not have thought to pursue before, and that has been a good tool for me.
• To view more of Mark Perry's work, visit the following website at www.markperry.org
, or email at email@example.com
Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.