Mark Beck | "Straight to the Heart" | Sue Greenwood Fine Art | Nov. 16, 2021 - Jan. 10, 2022

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MARK B ECK Straight to the Heart

The Americans is about the environmental and social challenges we survive with calamities such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, gun violence, COVID, tumultuous elections, and more. Hurricane Ida was ripping through the U.S. while I worked on this painting, and I thought about how strong people must rebuild their lives during such a tragedy. If they are lucky, they eventually tend to their gardens, decorate their homes, and sweep their porches again, and life goes on despite a hole in the roof. We persevere and work harder than ever, doing the best for our families, facing these times with courage and fortitude despite the challenges.

Cover: The Americans (detail) Acrylic on panel 44" x 48" (framed) $19,000

MARK BECK Straight to the Heart November 16, 2021 – January 10, 2022 Artist’s Reception

First Thursdays Art Walk December 2, 6-9 PM

SGFA SUE GREENWOOD FINE ART 330 north coast hwy laguna beach, ca 92651 949.494.0669

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was painting like I always do when the pandemic hit and my daily activities outside the home became sharply curtailed. So, I doubled down on painting and caught the news like everyone else. As I painted for this show I felt the rising intensity of domestic and world events surround my family and friends and it influenced the direction of my work.


y show, Straight to the Heart, is meant to get at the heart of these most compelling events affecting us all. I also intended for the work to be beautiful yet intriguing. In the paintings, there are subtle references to topics like climate crisis as well as the knowledge I have that young people are inheriting a world that does not look like the one my parents gave to me. In fact, recent surveys have revealed the anxiety that young people are feeling as they say they have no confidence in world leaders or the lawmakers who can do something about it.


he pandemic has also revealed a vulnerability for communities of color due to centuries of systemic racism - and in no small way has threatened the very healthcare for all citizens. The murder of George Floyd and all it portends for both racial justice and police violence, has created pain for so many. In Texas, the law preventing protection for abortion has profound implications. With everything that’s happening right now it’s no surprise that artists like me find themselves interpreting and describing these changes. — Mark Beck

“The best art is political, and you ought to be able to make it unquestionably political and irrevocably beautiful at the same time.” — Toni Morrison

The crow in The Messenger is a symbol of all animal life telling us we need to change course. The crow sits on a fire hydrant meant to symbolize the California fires this summer and water shortages due to the drought. The trees are half dead, and the building is crumbling on the right. The art business has been closed due to the pandemic which has been on my mind with many small businesses in American struggling to recover after the forced closures. There is a little note on the door of the shop, however. I’ve seen these notes a lot around town these days: sometimes they say they are out to lunch; other times they say they are closed for good.

The Messenger Acrylic on canvas 36" x 40" (framed) $15,000

The Swimmers was intentionally created to be ambiguous. Perhaps the presence of not one but two lifeguard towers is a response to a sea that may be too dangerous for a swim? The lifeguard towers can be stand-ins for humans, steadfastly watching over the swimmers. Nevertheless, these swimmers took the plunge as evidenced by the towels on the line. Is it courage that compels them to swim in a raging sea or their denial that swimming conditions have changed? I sometimes think about how I made brave decisions against all odds, and it makes me smile. I would like to think these courageous people are out there having fun, enjoying an invigorating swim and making it safely back to shore. Some paintings - like this one - can raise more questions than they answer (which I think is a good thing.)

The Swimmers Acrylic on canvas 48" x 64" (framed) $28,000

Adrift is about the subconscious mind. The garage filling with water is ominous and it makes me think of a David Lynch film I so appreciate. The flooding of the garage being swept out to oblivion and the irrational fears we can have about slowly sinking in life or not keeping up – even wondering if perhaps things may not get better but in fact worse? The flooding of the garage also depicts the climate crisis, the changing shoreline, and coastal cities that must adapt to rising seas. A traditional American home is on the verge of being destroyed and the garage is already gone. What happens next, we don’t know.

Adrift Acrylic on panel 30" x 48" (framed) $14,000

Safe and Sound presents an idyllic setting but there are curious details (such as why the curtains are closed) that open the narrative to speculation. The stay-at-home orders during the pandemic allowed some people to really feel the comfort and safety of home, contrasted with the crazy world outside. The tree near shore with no leaves signifies the changing seasons while the inhabitants are removed from nature yet safe inside from the elements and roiling sea.

Safe and Sound Acrylic on panel 30" x 48" (framed) $14,000

The Historical Moment depicts a young woman gazing at the ocean while an oil tanker slips from view. Hanging on her wall is a framed quilt, an interpretation of the American flag by the famous African American quiltmaker Arcola Pettway. Using her quilt in my painting is an attempt to honor the beauty, presence, and priceless contributions of Black Americans. On the small table I painted a Native American clay vessel that I own. It references the beauty and serenity that native cultures have bestowed upon my life and is an allusion to the (still) pending reconciliation of the methods of this nation’s founding Click to view an informative video of Mark Beck explaining why he created The Historical Moment painting.

The Historical Moment Acrylic on panel 44" x 48" (framed) $19,000

Looking Out Over Texas No. 1 and No. 2 (next page) I painted both women as the news of the Texas ban on abortion rights was unfolding. I was trying to imagine how I would feel as a woman - to have the right to safe abortion suddenly withdrawn. When you think about it, none of us chose our biological gender, race, or any aspect of our genetic makeup. We could just as easily be any other person you can easily imagine. I approached these two portraits with the empathy and solidarity that this reality encourages. Both women in the portraits are looking at a setting sun from a different time and place; it signifies the end of something. I've painted many portraits like this in my career as I think it has a mysterious quality when you see only the back of someone's head. Painting the women like this shows a certain vulnerability and elicits a pensiveness created by the long view of the distant horizon. Because their faces are hidden, the viewer can transpose a face of their own imagination and substitute their private memories and experiences onto the subject in the painting more easily.

Looking Out Across Texas No. 1 Acrylic on panel 24" x 24" (framed) $5,500

Looking Out Across Texas No. 2 Acrylic on panel 24" x 24" (framed) $5,500

Down to the Water makes a simple statement about the essential importance of water and by extension the critical need for equity for all basic human needs and the precariousness, as such for so many people’s lives. Water is something we all need, and in this painting, it’s satisfied so simply but in the real world it’s not so easy. The house is surrounded by water everywhere with a direct path down to the water’s edge. Symbolically, I wish that path to water was just as easy for everyone, as it should be.

Down to the Water Acrylic on panel 44" x 48" (framed) $19,000

I have explored painting small boats in water as a subject for quite a few years. In Forever Yours, the boat is a symbol for the individual. Water is an ancient symbol for life. Painted together in various ways, they allude to certain events in an individual’s life.

Forever Yours Oil on canvas 40" x 48" (framed) $18,000

In Signs of Life, the simple homes surrounded by water depict a quiet stillness. It’s not clear if anyone is around but the lively awnings and the rapidly changing light imply much more going on than is initially apparent.

Signs of Life Oil on canvas 36" x 48" (framed) $18,000

Summer of all Summers was painted in the summer of 2020 (which we all know means we weren’t going anywhere). I was imagining this woman feeling stressed by the lockdown and just needing to get out of the house. She decided to brave it and go down to the beach. Much to her surprise and delight, the beach was deserted and she had the whole place to herself.

Summer of all Summers Acrylic on canvas 42" x 48" (framed) $18,000

For Deep Waters, I created a turbulent sea contrasted with the calm lagoon in the foreground which represents different states of mind. These opposing states animate the setting while the woman waits and ponders how, or if, there will be a resolve.

Deep Waters Oil on canvas 42" x 48" (framed) $18,000

In Sea Watcher the sea looks quite high next to this house on the ocean. Made of brick, it’s a solid and a formidable structure, but maybe not against the rising tide. Still, we watch to see how it will go….

Sea Watcher Acrylic on canvas 26" x 32" (framed) $8,000

My twelve-year-old daughter is the model for The Guitarist and the guitar is one I acquired 30 years ago, that I still play daily. I made this painting as a tribute to my daughter with the hope that she will carry on and develop her creative interests.

The Guitarist Oil on linen 31" x 41" (framed) $10,000

American Artist Mark Beck is considered one of the country’s top realism and landscape painters. With a unique vision and decades-long career, he is well known for his iconic and bold images of the American landscape with paintings featured in numerous ad campaigns, magazines and films. As a professional exhibiting artist of more than 30 years, his work is widely collected and now resides in some of the world's most important art collections. Oceans and landscapes are his top subject matter so he frequently travels to the east and west coasts to study, paint, and sketch when creating for a new show. In 2002 he moved from Santa Barbara, CA to Albuquerque, NM and found artistic inspiration in the cultural diversity, desert open space, incredible light, and the piercing blue skies of New Mexico. As a prolific artist, he paints nearly every day and in the last 10 years has expanded his work to include portraiture, printmaking, and collage.

SGFA SUE GREENWOOD FINE ART 330 north coast hwy laguna beach, ca 92651 949.494.0669

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