Themes on Being
Themes on Being: A Mark Sisson Retrospective
October 19 - December 11, 2021
Themes on Being: A Mark Sisson Retrospective introduces a selection of prints and drawings from the last three decades of Mark Sisson’s career. Celebrating his final year of teaching before retirement in summer of 2022, this exhibition celebrates both Sisson’s successful career as an established artist and the lasting impact of his work as an educator in the studio art program at Oklahoma State University.
While Sisson’s portfolio as a whole utilizes portraiture as the dominant form, each individual work is a complex vignette that is part documentary, part theatre. Sisson reimagines the modern political cartoon genre through exquisite naturalistic precision and presents his forms with new clarity. Most of his artworks comment on critical contemporary topics such as lack of clean water and racial violence while other works capture life’s purest moments of joy and grief. An accomplished artist both in drawing and printmaking, Sisson replicates many of his original drawings in smaller print form, slightly altering details and hues. Where the drawings offer a luminous depth and a powerful life-size scale, the prints offer an intimacy in their small stature and subtlety in their details.
At the center of each work, he demonstrates his mastery of capturing human likeness. Though many of the faces in his work are familiar to anyone with proximity to the art department, the models he uses are portrayed as fictional characters within the narrative he has created. Each object in the composition utilizes nuanced, layered symbology to further convey the overarching theme of the individual work. The presented scene is then thrust into dramatic shadows, alluding to the grim nature of his message and heightening the theatricality of the arrangement. Though the theme of each story is unique, together they illustrate what it means to be a human being. Throughout his career, while shifting and evolving through each body of work, the core of his practice has remained the same: reflecting our society’s struggles back to us through metaphor.
I invite the viewers of this exhibition to spend time with each work to explore the stratified, complex topics held within each composition to unpack and piece together each highly applicable, profound story. It has been my absolute pleasure to work alongside Mark on this exhibition over the last year and to have this dedicated time to delve into his collection. I know these works will stay with me as I hope they will also linger with you.
Mark Sisson is an OSU professor of printmaking, drawing, and 2D Design in the Department of Art, Graphic Design, and Art History.
Exhibition reception will be on Thursday, November 11 from 5-7 p.m.
Krystle D. Kaye, Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition Executive Director