MARK FENTON'S ARTWORK can be as mystical as a Zen mandala for a yoga studio or as accessible as a sexy mermaid for a barroom. But in either case, he starts with a blank pine disk, and he finishes with “wall art.” That's what he calls it, which is significant because his process is not complete until someone wants to hang it on the wall.
His round, indoor wall signs combine his training in graphic design and sign-painting with his “huge love of advertising art.” Mark deftly cuts his crisp, clean designs into the wood, and paints them in colors that are unambiguous and often vivid. The work can be nostalgic, humorous and/or provocative. The result looks iconic, but if you've never heard of the company advertised, maybe it's because Mark dreamed it up. Sometimes he hasn't; clients engage him wanting signs that will impart that instant resonance and pang of deja vu.
Mandalas – some original and some from ancient India – are Mark's other design specialty. “I started carving spiritual things to quiet my mind,” he said, and now they are embraced by seekers of peace through meditation or yoga. He also does “a lot of work for people in recovery, and these designs make connections for them and put them in a better place.” Especially popular is “The Tree of Life,” a botanical take on the Zen yin/yang symbol.
Whether seeking enlightenment or amusement, the viewer is the unseen influence in his studio. With his inventive ad art, “I love to trigger emotions in people, to bring back memories,” he said. “Sure, I want to express myself, but it's not just one-way. I want my work to spark conversations. Engaging the people – that's my reward.”
Come see Mark Fenton at McConkey’s Market on June 15 from 10-4 at Washington Crossing Historic Park.