BY JANET MANDELSTAM
Mark Blaney may be new to Bloomington, but neither he nor his work is new to the Bloomington arts community. The painter and ceramicist, who came to town from Arkansas in 2010, is known locally for his visual contributions to the Wilderness Plots musical project and to many of musician/composer Malcolm Dalglish’s albums and publications. His work was shown at The Lodge in spring 2010, and one of his paintings appeared on the poster for a reading by poet Wendell Berry.
But it wasn’t art that drew Blaney to Bloomington. While he calls the city “an oasis in the Midwest,” he’s here “because of a woman”—his partner Julie James, with whom he shares a home midway between Bloomington and Nashville. She raises organic chickens; he paints.
Blaney actually works in two art forms, painting and ceramics. When he paints, both landscapes and figures, “there is immediate feedback,” he says, while his figurative ceramic wall hangings—“three-dimensional paintings” is how he describes them—“are slow in coming.” But, he says, “I have to do both.”
Blaney and Dalglish go back a long way—Blaney attended art school with Dalglish’s brother, and Dalglish’s wife introduced Blaney to James—and they talk about their modes of creative expression, art and music, in complementary terms.
“I like to have drawing underneath a painting, to have a sense of motion,” Blaney explains. He describes a painting of an orchard with a figure moving through the trees: “I can create a drawing of his progression through the trees, then draw the trees, then add color and tone to suggest atmosphere.” The composition, he says, “is a repetition of form magnified in a musical way.”
And Dalglish says, “As I began to do music, visual aspects informed my approach. Mark’s images carried that luminosity I hoped to come out of my music.”
While Blaney’s paintings have been described as post-Impressionist, “I don’t like to be held to a certain style,” he says. His studio is a converted two-car garage. “I painted the garage white, put in a wood stove, and have a view of the forest. I’m coming off a couple of shows and sold enough to buy time to build up a body of work. I have no excuse not to work.”