“I think of inspiration as a two-way channel. I think you have to start with an inspired mind and be positively charged and engaged in the environment around you. If we pass through time with a receptive and alert attitude, everything becomes a possible external source of inspiration. Maybe that explains some of my desire to work in so many materials, everything out there is at least interesting, it seems to me.” –Mike Marth
Anyone who has walked past Anderson Commons is most likely familiar with the work of Mike Marth without even knowing it. Marth, local mixed-media artist and art instructor at Concordia is the creator of the gigantic, coffee-cup-and-silverware laden piece that hangs above the staircase near dining services. He is also the current featured artist at ecce gallery in downtown Fargo.
When you first walk into ecce, the first thing you notice, besides all the art on the walls, is how perfect of a gallery space it is. Poured concrete floors, exposed brick, bare white walls, and the low pulse of ambient music create a clean, sparse atmosphere that is more Manhattan than Midwest. Thankfully, such a pared down atmosphere ensures that all the attention is on the art, and there’s a lot to focus on in Mike Marth’s pieces. Rich in color and visual texture, the multi-layered pieces have a raw, organic feel to them, and compel the viewer to linger a moment to take it all in. Stand close, and you’ll be able to see the careful layered brushwork, the different media used, and the subtle 3D dimension that the media give the piece. Stand back, and everything blends together into a cohesive whole. Many of his pieces use textural objects, such as screen, chains, and rope that he mimics with paint and brushwork, so it’s difficult to tell what’s 3D, and what is just an illusion. Additionally, most of his pieces also include everyday objects—coffee cups, belts, electrical cords, doorknobs—that he manipulates and assembles in a way that makes the viewer think twice about their common use, and instead see them reduced to their visual and artistic elements.
Despite the hodgepodge of materials that Marth uses in his work, the pieces themselves are extremely unified, cohesive, and throw off a vibe of being carefully and meticulously constructed. During a recent conversation, Mark Weiler, founder and owner of ecce, said that he believes “what makes Mike so good is that he’s able to be objective about his own work, which is a tough thing to do, especially when you put so much of yourself into a piece. Not a lot of artists are able to be objective like that.” Indeed, it’s evident by viewing the collection that Marth holds the highest of standards for himself, and the art he produces, even when creating is an uphill battle: “It’s pretty cool when a piece finally emerges resolved after a period of struggle and uncertainty, when it even seemed to actively resist my creative efforts,” Marth says. However, to him, the struggle is worth it. “It’s a very rewarding experience when a former student, friend, colleague, even a stranger, takes a moment to look at my work and comment that they have seen and appreciate what I do. It’s an honor, really.”
Marth’s show, which is at ecce until November 5th, is a must-see for anyone looking to appreciate the local art scene, and support an outstanding member of Concordia’s own faculty.