Fifty years and still creating
An exhibition comprising a nearly fifty-year survey of the artwork of Mark Eanes will open on Saturday, September 25, at the Arts Benicia gallery at 991 Tyler Street, Suite 114, in the historic Benicia Arsenal. Titled Shifting Sands: A Survey of Work, the exhibition will include paintings, prints, collage and photographs selected by Eanes and long-time colleague and co-curator Kathryn Weller-Renfrow, spanning from his Mills College days to the present.
Eanes loved to draw from an early age.
He grew up in the semi-rural environment of Terre Haute, Indiana, moving to Virginia Beach by the time of high school. With no plans after graduation, his mother arranged for the directionless teen to move to Hillsborough, California to live with his uncle, who agreed to help him find a career path. With his uncle’s support, Mark chose a college and a course of study – fine art, the one motivating interest he’d always had.
He began at Cañada College in Redwood City, then later attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was influenced by artists/teachers Howard Warshaw and Irma Cavat. “My training was very European, very traditional, not hip like the times,” says Eanes. “I copied the old masters’ paintings and developed my technical skills.” After graduation in 1974, he moved to San Francisco and supported himself as a clerk at a Best Western hotel, living frugally enough to save $3000 for a trip abroad. “I took my sketchbooks and backpack with me on a four-month trip to Europe,” he recalls. Using a Eurail pass, he traveled to museums in Paris, Amsterdam, Germany, Spain, and Italy. The new knowledge and experiences he brought back to San Francisco were life-changing, and his art became a need, not a want.
“I’ve always been interested in the history of art, and my travels have involved seeing the art of that place.”
His travels have also provided visual source material for his artwork, including elements from nature, printed materials, buildings, walls, portals, and surface textures and layers.
By the mid 1980s he gained admission to the Fine Arts program at Mills College, where he studied with Jay de Feo and completed a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1987. He considers his time at Mills to be a period of synthesis, influenced by the modernist sculptural shapes and gestures of the works of Brancusi. “I was always drawing, transcribing, and emulating the artwork that I saw and admired.” He subsequently set up a studio in Oakland where his artwork began to reveal an abundance of nature’s forms: organic, biomorphic shapes, seeds, and pods. He was also influenced by artist Terry Winters’ use of biomorphic forms in abstract works.
By the 1990s, Eanes had set up his studio in the Benicia Arsenal and begun to incorporate a strong interest in geometry, spatial relationships, and grids. His work became increasingly abstract, as he developed his interest in color exploration, collage, architectural elements, and text and fonts. The lines, color combinations, and geometric shapes of the works of Piet Mondrian and Paul Klee were influential. A subdued color palette gradually gave way to more intense uses of color in his present work.
Eanes’ works have been shown in many exhibitions throughout the Western United States.
He considers a solo show at the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara in 2019 as a milestone achievement. He has also taught at the college level for many years. “Over half of my creative work has been done here in my Benicia Arsenal studio. The changes in my art reflect my ongoing study of art history and my interest in the work of other artists. Each decade of my life, some artist or concept has been a significant influence. But I don’t see this exhibition as a retrospective … that sounds too grandiose, and besides, I have a lot of work yet to create.”
The exhibition will open on Saturday, September 25, with a reception in the gallery from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. To learn more about the exhibition and about Eanes’ works, please visit artsbenicia.org/mark-eanes/ or markeanes.com