Artists are magicians, able to cause change to occur in accordance with their will. (Well, they cause change to occur with their chosen medium, and they all would like to transform their art into gold!) Artist Mark Edward, whose “Soothsayer” reception is Saturday, May 18 at the Fold Gallery in the Spring Arts Building downtown, is a magician of a different sort:
While a student at Cal Arts, studying fine and performance art, Mark was mentored by John Baldessari. He had always done magic tricks, and when his parents cut short his arts eduction, Mark turned to Baldessari for advice. The legendary California painter suggested that since Mark was already doing stage magic, maybe he should take his act to the Magic Mountain amusement park, since despite their name, they actually didn’t have any “real” magicians at that time (though they did have beer, which made it a more popular park for adults than Disneyland, which had no alcohol until the mid-1990s). Mark was a success, and quickly moved up to the Magic Castle as professional mentalist for over thirty years.
Mark continued to make art while working to reveal the methods of psychic scamsters. As he reveals in his biography, Psychic Blues, Confession of a Conflicted Medium, Mark worked for ten years as a 900-phone line psychic, while studying spiritualist churches to learn and expose their methods. He also consulted for, and appeared on, numerous television programs, including Penn & Teller’s Bullshit!, NBC’s The Other Side and Psychic Secrets Revealed, The Discovery Channel’s Forces Beyond, and on two episodes of The Learning Channel’s Exploring the Unknown. Mark has written books on palmistry, mediumship, and psychism, but could never escape his first love, art. He designed a beautiful set of the Major Arcana tarot cards (the 22 “trumps”) called Silentium, and continued to paint, moving into collage and assemblage. Currently he builds elaborate sculptures–arcane, imaginary alchemical devices and sci-fi machines–out of antique laboratory glass.
I appreciate that Mark works to expose fakes, and neither declares himself as a genuine psychic, nor gives any disclaimers. He lets his work stand on its own merit and allows each individual to arrive at their own personal conclusions, which is what his art does as well. Much of his art deals with science and mysticism (or in some cases, science vs mysticism), often combining his precise painting style with thrift shop paintings; collaging together elements associated with legerdemain and the occult; and evoking Harry Houdini. His work is intelligent, surreal (he cites Max Ernst as an influence), and eye opening. Drop by on May 18, and maybe Mark, who will performing illusions, will read your fortune. I see a new art purchase in your future!
“Soothsayer,” Mark Edward
Through June 9
Reception, Saturday May 18, 5pm-10pm
Illusions and fortunes read at 9pm
The Fold Gallery
453 S. Spring St., upstairs
Los Angeles, CA 90012