As an artist, Christie Marks’ goal is to reveal essence or what she refers to as the ‘extraordinary in the ordinary’. Essence is a quality that goes by many names including spirit, center, heart, core, and being. Sometimes being aware of essence is a certainty such as when touching a baby’s skin or coming across a rushing mountain stream. In these instances the sense of essence is very strong and might be described as a feeling of awe or sheer wonder.
Marks takes the concept of essence a step further, emphasizing it where it seems not to exist such as in gritty everyday objects, places, and even people. The common denominators in these subjects include age, a sense of history or story, and the human touch. In this way Marks expresses a deep empathy with others and a connection to the incessant beauty that surrounds us.
There are several experiences that have influenced Marks’ artistic style and subject matter. The most important came in 1994 when she left her middle class life in southern California to take a job in the central valley town of Fresno. Eventually the dusty beauty of an area where 28% of the people live below the poverty line began to grow on her. Marks would grab her camera and sketchbook and take long drives into hills and farmland, chronicling the sights that most spoke to her. She poured over the work of photographers who were inspired by this type of scenery during the Great Depression such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and others. Marks’ collection, Signs of Life, is a direct outgrowth of this Central Valley experience.
Marks’ other primary collection, Spellbound, is also motivated by a search for essence. However, these works are inspired by travel, particularly in Morocco, India, and southern Spain. Marks finds the design aesthetic of these ancient lands endlessly inspiring. She states that, “Simply walking down a narrow ancient alley filled with color, sounds, cottage industry, and sometimes profound sadness touches me on a deep level.”
Primarily a mixed media artist, Marks’ technique involves working in layers, setting abstract passages against a dominant narrative. Once the concept for a new work is formed, she begins drawing and painting the individual components that will comprise the composition. Her layering method is an adaptation of one used in architecture where one draws on translucent sketch paper that can be seen through when laid over a floor plan. Using this method she builds up a series of translucent layers, each layer informing the next. Her substrate of choice is a sealed wood panel covered in torn grocery bags. The combination of the brown paper bags and the translucent layers creates the aged, mysterious look that she seeks. The final phase of the work is to emphasize key passages with oil paint, incorporating classical painting techniques. Website Link