“Life’s Persistent and most urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
From the beauty of the landscape surrounding his studio in McCook Lake, South Dakota, to a thoughtful consideration of the state of our nation or issues of social justice, the themes and images that reveal themselves throughout Mark Avery’s work offer a bit of insight into the spirit of the artist himself.
Self-taught, and a former commercial sign painter, Avery’s sophisticated and complex sculpture and painting belie a fundamentally straightforward Midwestern approach wherein art, much like life, is best handled simply and without pretense, always tethered to a constant foundation of community, country, and the natural environment.
Handling his subjects both figuratively and in the abstract, Avery’s sure hand with line, color and form imbue his work with a clarity of purpose, a sense that the thought, spirit, emotion or event that inspired a piece has been honestly rendered and offered up for reflection. The faces of his subjects in his figurative sculptures, for example – like those of the children in his bronze Let’s Stick Together (2006) – offer much more than a simple photographic portrait. “I want to capture their personality, emotion and spirit, as well as their face in clay,” Avery has said. And it is that capturing of “spirit” – the spirit of a moment, or a symbol, or a face – that is evident throughout Avery’s work, from the easy going beauty of his painting Sage (2010), to his more challenging, and much admired, Flag series.
Avery’s work is held in private collections around the country and he has built a dedicated and passionate body of devotees over the years. He has installed a number of commissioned public works including Transformation (2011), a steel and epoxy abstract, for Jackson Recovery Centers, and a bronze bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., donated to the NAACP, which is now on display at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Transportation Center in downtown Sioux City, Iowa.
Avery is currently at work on a series of 13 busts of “unsung heroes of diversity,” and on a sweeping, large-scale steel beam arc installation, a project of the non-profit Celebrating Community Foundation in Sioux City, Iowa.