I recently did an interview with Kansas City artist Mark Allen. His solo exhibition My Year with Them is currently being held at Vulpes Bastille in the Crossroads.
J. So this show is based on experiences you've had with your friend Kat over the past year. Can you tell me more about your relationship with Kat, and how this project evolved?
M. Kat and I went to high school together but didn't see each other much until last spring when I went to New York. We happened to run into each other and did a photo shoot for my bodybag series. We both moved back to Kansas City last summer and continued shooting together as a creative outlet for us. Over time, I realized there was a narrative forming that was pretty compelling.
J. You designed the Cross dress for some of these shots. How does this show (if at all) tie into your own branding?
M. The cross dress is a found dress that I silkscreened crosses all over as part of my silkscreened apparel. My art, which includes original paintings, videos, installations, and performances, also incorporates limited edition creations ranging from apparel to lighters, apothecary to buttons. I want everyone to become a part of the Mark Allen narrative in some way. So these images of Kat, some of them read as advertisement for these products because thats what they are, but also display as art themselves. It becomes a gesamtkunstwerk.
J. I remember you telling me about the double-exposure with the crosses in the graveyard and how that was a fairly serendipitous shot. Can you talk more about that?
M. I accidentally double-exposed a roll of film with two different shoots taken 6 months apart. One has Kat with blond hair in a graveyard and the other in a parking lot with a box full of wooden crosses that was given to me. After I developed them, my jaw dropped when how perfectly some of the shots lined up. There's even one of Kat jumping in the graveyard and the crosses line up perfectly to form tombstones. Most people don't even realize they are two separate pictures. I'm not really sure why but there's a reason those pictures happened.
J. What made you decide to use several different photographic processes for this show?
M. I was classically trained in darkroom photography and currently teach that to high school youth. I've always been fascinated with alternative processes and wanted to include these in my show. The cyanotypes and Van Dyke prints are emulsions that I create myself and then paint on the paper. There are beautiful things that happen when using these processes and in a way they become not only a photograph but also a painting.
J. Are you happy with the result of the show?
M. I am always very self-critical of my work. I think this was a really great first start of this series. I worked out many of the kinks and learned how to better display the work to help aid the viewer through the narrative. Blair Schulman helped me re-curate the show by moving the images around. I have a lot of improvements to make for next time but I think everyone really enjoyed the work so far.
J. Where would you like to go from here/what artistic endeavors do you have coming up in the future?
M. I am currently compiling the images into a book/ exhibition catalogue with more information and will be shopping around to show the series at other galleries. I want to export this project to NYC, LA, maybe Texas or Oklahoma. I'm also working on a new series of paintings and letterpress prints. Just keeping busy and making more good work!
My Year with Them will be up at Vulpes Bastille until August 30th, so you still have a few more days to go check it out!
Find out more here. And to learn more about Mark Allen and see more of his work click here.