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Bucks County Pennsylvania and Kennebunkport Maine

© 2018 by Mark Pettegrow Studio Ltd.

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Finding the Edges, or What Interests Me Now

Updated: Jul 27, 2018


Tidal Series : Cycle


I am concerned with edges in my work. An edge faired to a sweet line. The sweep of a form poised somewhere on the edge between the known and the unknown, between memory and imagination.


It is this edge of recognition that I find compelling.


I am interested in exploring beauty and desire in form, with the idea that these formal elements can still have relevance in a world where they have either been somewhat trivialized or overly sexualized.


I am intrigued by the answers to questions such as: What causes an object to resonate? How can an inanimate object become an object of our desires, a beacon into our past, or a vessel for our dreams? How does a beautiful object become eloquent, or a perfected line lyrical?


As an artist, I try to mine memories to distill them into new forms. My childhood summers were spent on a coastal farm in Maine, long settled and long past its prosperity. It was a farm built in another century plus two. The house was neglected but loved well past its prime. The barns and outbuildings, unused for decades, were receding back into the earth. Surrounded by beautiful fields, woods and shoreline, I also found beauty in the farm’s decay. In wood silvered, slivered and split, the layers of paint having been peeled by two hundred years of summer’s sun and winter’s wind. There I discovered objects crafted for purposes unknown, the forms simple and clear, evoking the past in the patina that wear and rust give to the forgotten tool. This is the world that still intrigues me, defining the forms I try to explore. With the formal tools of an artist such as line, texture, and edge, I try to distill these remembered simple forms into objects that quietly resonate. The calyx, shell or spade reemerge in abstracted form, honed and faired to perfection, allowing the natural texture and surface patina to reflect against the polish and shine of a true faired edge.


The difficulty lies in maintaining the simplicity and the resonance of the forms. The balance, arc, and velocity of the edges define the pieces, while the deeply worked and honed surfaces are a result of searching out that sweet edge.



Thoughts on Abstraction and Distraction


Figurative or representational work is often defined by the iconography or mythology of the piece. The form becomes a cultural reference. The image is topical; an illustration of part of a larger story. At that point our inherent need to define and categorize the unknown takes over and part of our mind puts the object into its predetermined category and puts it to rest.


We then know what that thing is…


But is that all there is? Are we then done with that story? Is the object over?


Living in this new digital age of iPhones and Instagram, texting, and Twitter, we have become increasingly mercurial creatures. Our attention span has shrunk to 140 characters or less. As soon as the unknown becomes known, we move on. We have been trained to ceaselessly want something new. But what happens when the object of our attention requires more time, more thought, and more sustained perception to understand? What happens when the reference isn’t topical or when the idea explored is purely formal: line, edge, movement, texture, and volume? How do we approach these objects when we are drawn in but cannot place the reference?


I think we are given an opportunity to approach the abstract form on a more visceral level. We try to reach out to touch it and move over it with both hands and eyes. We move around the forms in ways that are far more exploratory than happens with a known object, needing to see the other side in order to understand the whole. Because we can’t easily read the clues or categorize the form, we are free to fill in the unspoken details. The unknown object becomes in essence a vessel, one ready-made to be filled with whatever we desire. It is an object poised on the edge of being known.


This is the edge I find most interesting. Fleeting recognition can often strike a faint chord, evoke a half forgotten memory, or even stir a buried desire. I try to find and distill these eloquent lines and these simplified forms in my work. I try to create new objects that possess a material beauty, a lyrical line and a formal integrity but also resonate in an unknown, familiar, and evocative way.