MIZ RADIO Interview
|1. Who is Mark Bryan? I’m a white guy, 56 years old, married 32 years, two kids. We live in a small town on the coast of California. I grew up in LA in the 50’s and 60’s. The Red Scare, Atomic War, the Watts riots, Leave it to Beaver and alien invasions come to mind. It was a disturbing time, but then aren’t they all? It always seemed something was not quite right with the world. I still carry that feeling with me. I became a hippie, I Didn’t trust Nixon, still don’t, ”Peace Brother”. I tried to stay out of Vietnam and succeeded. Psychedelic culture was interesting for a while but reality was hard enough without the extra embroidery. I stayed out of trouble. I was always an artist. I had something to say but not with words. It was my identity, how I stood out, how I got the girls to like me. Yes I painted that, “I’m an artist”
2. How would you describe your art? Using words to describe pictures is always tough. Some say an artist is the last person to ask about what they’re doing. “Talk to the experts”, but I’ve read a lot of stuff by the critics and man they are full of it too. So you may as well listen to me.
I went to art school and was exposed to all the traditional work of western art history. That stuff is all in there somewhere but style wise I think my work is a strange mix of Surrealism, underground comics, political/social comment, sci-fi illustration and landscape painting. Prevalent in almost all the work is a dark disturbing humor.
I seem to have a deep disappointment in human behavior and a rather pessimistic view about our future. This attitude is obviously reflected in the work. I suppose using humor is the only way to make it palatable to the viewer and me. I seem compelled to make comments about what’s going on. Maybe I would make just pretty stuff if things were different but there is so much crap and injustice going on in the world that it is impossible for me to ignore it. Well, that’s not completely true. Sometimes I do take a break and just paint something that’s purely ridiculous. People need to laugh, and of course, they like those paintings the best. 3. When did you realize that art was your way of life? I can’t remember not thinking that painting was the best possible way to make a living but it took a while to make that happen.
I got married young, had kids right away. I was insecure about my abilities as a painter and with good reason. (It takes years to put out even half ass work) Our situation made it hard to be just an artist. For about 20 years I was a carpenter and builder. About 1990 I knew I had to get back to it if I wanted to be a happy guy.4. Who have been some of your main influences as an artist? As a person? I am influenced a lot by the older stuff. Of the great masters I would say that Goya is the most important to me. His skill as a painter was incredible but his social and political comment were even more powerful. He had a genius for depicting the stupidities, hypocrisy, and superstitions of the human race. Honest criticism of the powerful was very risky in those days. His Disasters of War and Los Caprichos engravings are my favorites.
Gustave Dore and Pieter Bruegel are also important because of their big-picture cosmic view of the human predicament. Dore’s illustrations for Paradise Lost and the Divine Comedy are mind blowing. Bruegel’s Triumph of Death and The Tower of Babel are among my favorite paintings ever.
More recent artists that have influenced my work are the Surrealists, the Social Realists and Expressionists. George Grosz, Otto Dix and others had the courage to criticize the Nazi’s to their face.
A big influence in my own life was living for a few years with two members of the “Los Four” group, the grandfathers of the Chicano art movement in LA. I worked with them on some of their mural projects for the United Farm Workers Union. They introduced me to the work of the great Mexican muralists, Rivera, Orozco, and Siquieros. The idea that art could be used as a tool to bring light to injustices and that artists have some responsibility to make comment about the times and expose the villains of the day was made clear to me by their work
5. How has politics taken a center stage in your art? I don’t consider myself primarily a political artist but I have always tried to include some kind of comment and symbolism in my pieces. I’m not usually satisfied to just make something pretty or funny. Most of my work in the past had social, religious or political undertones and made comment in a general way about the human predicament.
Only in the past few years have I aimed some of my work at specific individuals or situations. Events in the world, the environmental emergency and the political direction of this country have been alarming to me. There are always problems and villains but the guys running things right now seem to work day and night against everything I believe in. They are robbing us blind, killing our children and rapidly moving this country towards a fascist state. They should be in jail for what they have done. I have a lot of anger about this. I feel that this is a time for artists with a political bent to make stronger statements with a clear message. I don’t know if this really has much effect on the situation. I hope so, but at least I think it contributes to the general culture of resistance and it has a therapeutic value for me. Others of like mind also seem happy to see their feelings made real visually. I have attempted to retain in this work the fun that can come from satire and parody and at the same time deal with these serious subjects.6.What is your favorite discipline in art? Drawing is the soul of art but painting to me is the main course. With paint it is possible to create an entire world.
7. What would you tell someone contemplating pursuing art as his or her way of life? It won’t be easy but it will make you feel alive.
8. Do you choose your subjects or do they choose you? Most of the time I think they choose me. The way it works for me is like this. A problem or topic brews in the back of my mind for a while and then like a dream, a picture pops into my head all at once. Often one picture leads to another. After a while a personal vocabulary develops and gets used again and again.9. Can art be as deadly as a gun? Guns don’t work on the mind only the flesh. Art can sometimes make the viewer want to kill the artist. It can also be used in propaganda, and like a gun in the wrong hands, can be deadly, in some cases, more deadly.
10. What’s new and hot off the press? I’ve taken a break from the Bush gang for a little while. I’ve been working on large landscapes with strange buildings, flying monkeys, Mr. Death beating the drums of war, also some purely humorous work. For example The Madonna breast feeding a giant baby in a brown suit.
11. Finish the following statement. Good artists borrow, great
Artists…..? “Steal” comes to my mind immediately like in those word association games. Not much is really new but I think the sign of a great artist is the ability to make the old new again and relevant to our time. And then of course a new crop of artists begins to steal from him.
12. What is your most important goal as an artist? My first goal is to be successful enough so that I don’t ever have to do anything else. After that I would like to think that I am contributing to the current culture. An artists’ mission is I believe to observe, make comment, entertain, and to provoke thought.13. If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would that be? Rev. Martin Luther King, if he’s not available then Helen of Troy.
14. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Hopefully still painting. This kind of endeavor is like a journey into oneself. So far it has been very interesting and I expect it will remain so.
15. What is the biggest misunderstanding about yourself? Well of course it’s hard to know what other people are really thinking, but when they see my work most think I’m some kind of crazy wacky personality but actually I’m fairly quiet and introverted. Maybe my art is a way to balance things out. Also, I think that most artists become known for a few standout works but few see or know the range and variety of their work.
16. If you had to live in one room for your entire life, what would it