Mark Soppeland received his B. F. A. from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1974 and his M. F. A. from Ohio State University in 1976. A painter, sculptor and designer he has shown his work in over three hundred and fifty exhibitions on four continents. He has been awarded four Ohio Arts Council Individual Artists' Fellowships. During the summer of 2002 he spent two months in Prague, Czech Republic on an OAC International Artist in Residence Fellowship. He has created over forty-five public art projects. Mark is finished his thirty-first year of teaching last spring at the Myers School of Art at the University of Akron where he was recently promoted to the rank of Distinguished Professor.
GUARDIANS and other light sculptures
An Artist’s Statement
The House of Second Sight
Mark Soppeland, Professor of Art
In 1988 I begin developing a group of mixed media figurative sculptures which I called Guardians for an installation at Art Behind Bars in Cleveland, Ohio. Evolving from earlier work the Guardians incorporated my ongoing interest in the use of found objects, light, and a concern for installational sculpture.
Guardian of the Fragile Nature of Sanity
The Guardians address many concerns. In the creation of these works I perform the roles of conceptualist, designer, craftsman, historian, philosopher, and magician. Although I will occasionally identify specific issues with which I am concerned, it is the multi-leveled interrelationships that define the complexity of our existence that are at the heart of work.
The psychological weatherman issues a brain storm warning.
The Guardians are part of the modernist tradition of exploring the potential of art. They synthesize multicultural arts and crafts influences with Western formalist and historical issues. They attempt to reflect the complexity and duality of the postmodernist world. As such they are romantic and pragmatic; primitive and modern; timeless and timely.
Queen of the Hidden Moon (with some assembly required)
Working with found objects the sculptures make intentional references to the work and concerns of Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Kurt Schwitters, Alexander Calder, and Robert Rauschenberg. The use of discarded material is a logical response to a society that has never been as wealthy, or as wasteful.
She Wants What She Wants
My work reflects what I believe to be an elemental human need for the activities involved with the search, possession and transformation of the object. Presentation, engagement and exchange are the completing acts to this process. A variety of historical and modernist approaches, with their inevitably diverse commentary on the use of the existing object, are also referenced in my work. The use of the found object brings multiple levels of symbolic and cultural baggage to a meeting with efficiency and historical process.
Guardian of the Suspension of Disbelief
The Guardians are symbolic representatives of the world of dreams, the world of ideas, and the world of culture. The Guardians use light to transform themselves and their environment. Through their use of light they become ethereal, inviting the viewer into the realm of magic. In their surface, form and materiality they assert the beauty and importance of the world of the physical. Existing at the intersection of these two worlds, the knowable and the unknowable, the works are designed to function as symbolic intermediaries who carry messages, reminders, and maybe more. Art may not be magic, but it can be a powerful mirror of what we want to believe. People will see what they want to see.
Guardian of the Logic of Chaos
With the Guardians I am not interested in high technology with its requirements of constant attention and repair. Complex technology tends to be inherently short lived. These sculptures are constructed to age well and to be easily repaired. They are designed to invite the participation of their owners in their care and maintenance, perhaps to even modify as times change.
The Shrine of Cleo the Puzzle Solver
I am engaged with the rather unfashionable idea that art can enlighten. As an artist and a teacher I have always tried to make work that was accessible, that is to make art that most people could approach and find some relevant meaning. The idea (at least one of them) of my work is that once the viewer is engaged, a collection of clues have been installed in the work that have the potential to direct the viewer to observations and awareness they had not yet consciously discovered. I try to create work that can function as a bridge to higher levels of awareness.