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From the Seen to the Unseen: Brother Mark Mahoney
May 2 - July 1, 2006
(above: Brother Mark Mahoney, Vigilance , 2002-03, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 30 in., Courtesy of the artist )
"There is so much unseen around us that is palpable and visible but that we think of as invisible."
- Brother Mark Mahoney, OSB CAM\
This recent exhibition featured a sampling of works by Brother Mark Mahoney, a Brother at the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California. The primary focus of this exhibition is Mahoney's recent series of dynamic figurative paintings. Featuring figures seemingly floating in celestial worlds, these works explore the powerful potential of both body and spirit.
The inspiration for this series came to the artist through meditation and solitude. "I wanted to represent the impression I had of the human spirit after it leaves the body," Mahoney says, "The energy that all human beings have cannot cease to exist, even if the body does." Through flickers of light, intense colors, and energetic gestural splashes, Mahoney attempts to express the intangible, and represent the invisible. While Mahoney studied life drawing in art school, the primary models for the figures in these paintings are actually characters in comic books. Comic book superheroes provide brilliant examples of dramatic figures in action*and have remained a unique influence on Mahoney's paintings.
All of Mahoney's works reflect his lifelong commitment to spirituality. Mahoney began his spiritual quest as a young adult at an ashram (the SYDA Yoga Foundation in Oakland). However, he soon realized that his true calling was the monastic life. Soon afterwards, he became a brother at the New Camaldoli Hermitage, where he has remained for the past 12 years. Mahoney asserts that it was through the process of becoming a monk, in which he experienced the luxuries of solitude and a unique mental "emptying," that allowed him to create such a large body of artwork. He also acknowledges the support of the Hermitage, which has a longstanding tradition of artist and musician monks.
Mahoney's life at the New Camaldoli Hermitage involves contemplation, meditation, and solitude. His days involve frequent daily gatherings for prayer, an afternoon period for work (in which he creates his art) and a grand silence which begins at sundown and continues until the sun rises in the morning. Mahoney describes the monastic life as inextricably linked to the rising and setting of the sun and says, "Our life has a lot to do with the illustration of the fact that we do see God in absolutely everything around us, especially in each other and especially the way we are." As a hermit monk, Mahoney lives with his brothers in solitude, but gathers together with them in community, all at the same time. The setting of the Hermitage is the awesomely beautiful Big Sur area, which provides an important and ongoing inspiration to the artist.
Brother Mark Mahoney was educated at Hayward State University and the San Francisco Art Institute. He lives and works at the New Camoldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, CA. This exhibition also features Mahoney's ceramic art, and examples of his work in watercolor and pencil from throughout his career (watercolors signed "Lorenzo" are from a pre-monastic period when he lived and worked in Mexico).
"My art comes from a curiosity of mind, of always wanting to see between the lines and the space between the spaces, and how the deepest form of creativity comes out of nothing rather than something," says Mahoney. As a mantra, he frequently references a quote from the sacred Hindu text The Vedas, "Everything is perfect, above me is perfect, below me is perfect, on either side of me is perfect and if from all the perfect I try to extract the perfect, what is left is still perfect."
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