September 30, 2012


Nothing that’s alive holds still. Life is in motion and our seeing is always fragmented, never complete.

I want to paint life the way I see it.  My goal as a painter is not to “freeze” a moment. I want to bring life and breath into an image. For me, a good painting keeps opening up. It involves the viewer by letting the eyes do some of the work.

Painting is something I do with my body, and it shows. I paint with energy and I don’t try to hide that. You can see how the brush moves and how the paint was put on and scraped off. Painting, like life, is messy.

I usually paint the human body. I find the human form both irresistible and impossible to paint. And so every day I struggle to respond to its exuberant wild skittishness, its burden of grief and praise, its extravagant, quivering life.

August 13, 2012

the purpose of art--an excerpt from JFK's words about R. Frost

excerpted from a speech by President John F. Kennedy honoring the late poet Robert Frost.

A nation reveals itself not only by the men (sic) it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers …

The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the nation's greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us …

When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstones of our judgment. The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state. The great artist is thus a solitary figure. He has, as Frost said, "a lover's quarrel with the world." In pursuing his perceptions of reality he must often sail against the currents of his time …

If sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice, which must motivate any true artist, make them aware that our nation falls short of its highest potential.

I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him …

In free society art is not a weapon, and it does not belong to the sphere of polemics and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But in a democratic society the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist, is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation …

I look forward to a great future for America—a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral strength, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose.

I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our natural environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past, and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future.

I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft.

I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens.

And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world, not only for its strength but for its civilization as well.

And I look forward to a world which will be safe, not only for democracy and diversity but also for personal distinction.

June 24, 2012

from sadness to plenitude

"I looked down no. 1" 36" x 24" oil on canvas. 2012

In 1971, Pablo Neruda spoke to the Paris Review: "My poetry has passed through the same stages as my life; from a solitary childhood and an adolescence cornered in distant, isolated countries, I set out to make myself a part of the great human multitude. My life matured, and that is all. It was in the style of the last century for poets to be tormented melancholiacs. But there can be poets who know life, who know its problems, and who survive by crossing through the currents. And who pass through sadness to plenitude."

I would like my art to engage the challenges of life and to cross through its currents, but I think this must happen naturally and in stages, the way our lives grow and mature.

June 18, 2012

interesting review of a recent show

Here's a well written review of my recent show up in Santa Fe:

June 6, 2012

"Art of Man" interview

Firehouse Press and its illustrious editor E. Gibbons has included a number of my paintings and an extended interview in its most recent volume of "Art of Man." You can order a copy here and if you enter code NXY3Y88L you get 15% off your purchase. Order away!

April 29, 2012

Rodin's hands...

mark horst, "this living hand no. 3" oil on canvas, 22" x 28" 2012

"There they were, these small graceful dancers, like transformed gazelles; the two long, slender arms drawn through the shoulders, through the slenderly massive torso (with the full slenderness of Buddha images) as if made of a single piece, long hammered out in the workshop, down to the wrists upon which the hands then assumed their poses, agile and independent, like actors on the stage. And what hands: Buddha hands that know how to sleep, that lie down smoothly after all has passed, with fingers adjoining, to rest for centuries at the edge of a lap, lying with the palms facing up, or else steeply raised at the writs, invoking infinite stillness. These hands in wakefulness: imagine. These fingers spread, open, starlike, or curved in upon each other as in a rose of Jericho; these fingers delighted and happy or else frightened, displaying at the very end of the long arms: themselves dancing."

from "Letters on Cezanne," Rainer Maria Rilke

April 24, 2012

this living hand

"this living hand no.1" 22" x 28", oil on canvas

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed—see here it is—
I hold it towards you.

John Keats

April 14, 2012

horst interview

Here's a little interview I did...

April 3, 2012

Van Gogh's “magnificat”

Vincent Van Gogh, "The Siesta"

I've been reading a little collection of Rainer Maria Rilke's letters [Letters on Cezanne] and at one point he describes his impressions of Vincent Van Gogh's painting. Rilke says that in Van Gogh: "...something of the spirit of Saint Francis was coming back to life...” He goes on to say: “in his paintings… poverty has already become rich: a great splendor from within."

In Luke’s gospel, Mary says this about her baby and about what her pregnancy might mean:
My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.

He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.

So here is Rilke suggesting, like Mary, that "the hungry" have been filled--that the poor have become rich, and that this has happened in Van Gogh's way of seeing the world.

Maybe Rilke, Van Gogh and Mary were looking in different places and seeing the same thing.

March 20, 2012

what does a painting mean?

"espresso cup no.1" oil on canvas, 8" x 10" mark horst

I do hope a painting means something. But it’s alright with me if it’s only a little bit of something.

Don’t come to me with the entire truth.
Don’t bring the ocean if I feel thirsty,
nor heaven if I ask for light;
but bring a hint, some dew, a particle,
as bird carry only drops away from water,
and the wind a grain of salt.*

Maybe the green light around the edge of a porcelain cup is all the meaning I need tonight. Maybe the generous curve of an eyebrow is enough.

*from “Trusting Your Life to Water and Eternity: Twenty Poems of Olav H. Hauge” translated by Robert Bly

March 14, 2012

more on Chardin & Cezanne's fruit

I'm reading Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters on Cezanne," and came across this discussion of the fruit in Chardin and Cezanne:

"[Chardin's] fruits are no longer thinking of a gala dinner, they're scattered about on kitchen tables and don't care whether they are eaten beautifully or not."

Isn't that just great? Because there are certainly fruits out there--in say, this painting by Coenraet Roepel--that are aspiring to being eaten beautifully:

But not Chardin's humble fruit:

Rilke continues:
"In Cezanne they cease to be edible altogether, that's how thing-like and real they become, how simply indestructible in their stubborn thereness."

Yes! I like this much better than Hockney's analysis. It's not that Cezanne's fruit is closer [see blog entry below], but there is something "indestructible" about it--a "stubborn thereness."

March 12, 2012

Rembrandt's hand

Weschler interviews Hockney:

“'And what,' I asked, 'so captivated him in Rembrandt?' 

'The hand!' he replied instantly. 'The evidence of a human hand moving. I could feel his elbow jutting, the way he balanced and rebalanced his pen between his fingers, adjusting and readjusting. Every mark, visible. The boldness and yet the economy of means. The precision and yet the liveliness of gesture of observed and rendered gesture.'

'...The Chinese say that painting draws on three things: the eye, the heart, and the hand. And I longed to return to the hand.'"

February 29, 2012

I think David Hockney is wrong about this...

“Look at that basket of fruit by Chardin over there on the left [top], and now at the same subject by Cezanne… Chardin’s version, for all its indisputable mastery and beauty, feels far away; it’s a picture of fruit at the far end of an optical remove, receding into the picture, whereas Cezanne’s… feels right up close; those apples feel close at hand, they feel present to hand, they come out to us. That’s what you can achieve when you break from the tyranny of the optical.” [David Hockney, quoted in Weschler, p.184]

I like Hockney a lot. And I certainly don't know what paintings he was referring to when he made the above comment. But given his argument [that Chardin is subject to the "tyranny of the optical"] it shouldn't matter which painting it was. Hockney's saying that Chardin's paintings all work in a way that removes us from the subject, whereas Cezanne sees and therefore paints in away that brings the subject close---makes it present.

I like Hockney's argument, but I can't see it and so I have to say, I think he's wrong. What do you think?

February 22, 2012

how we actually see

Mark Horst "What have I become? no. 1" oil on canvas.

Hockney, speaking about his photo collages: 

“I realized that this sort of picture came closer to how we actually see, which is to say, not all at once but rather in discrete, separate glimpses, which we then build up into our continuous experience of the world. Looking at you now, my eye doesn’t capture you in your entirety, but instead quickly, in nervous little glances… There are a hundred separate looks across time from which I synthesize my living impression of you. And that is wonderful. If, instead, I caught all of you in one frozen look, the experience would be dead—it would be like… it would be like looking at an ordinary photograph.”

from Lawrence Weschler, “True to Life: Twenty-five Years of Conversations with David Hockney,” p.10

February 3, 2012

memory and seeing

David Hockney, "Arnold, David, Peter, Elsa, and Little Diana, 20 March 1982

“Working on these collages… I realized how much thinking goes into seeing—into ordering and reordering the endless sequence of details which our eyes deliver to our mind… Which is to say, memory plays a crucial role in perception. At any given moment, my eyes catch his or that detail—they really can’t keep any wide field in focus all at once—and it’s only my memory of the immediately previous details which allows me to form a continuous image of the world.”

[from Lawrence Weschler, “True to Life: Twenty-five Years of Conversations with David Hockney”

January 31, 2012

looking and beauty

"I’ve always loved that phrase of Constable’s where he says, 'I never saw an ugly thing,’ …It’s the very process of looking at something that makes it beautiful.”

David Hockney

January 27, 2012

turning embrace no. 7

oil on canvas. 24" x 24". 2012

let painting be suggestive

"I do not believe that art should be explicit. It should be suggestive and ambiguous so the viewer has to enter in.”

Balcomb Greene

Blog Archive