Saturday, October 06, 2012

The artist Mark Cline

A couple weekends back, I took a trip to Natural Bridge, VA. You can read my review of the Wax Museum here.

This post isn’t about the oh-so-wonderful Wax Museum. It’s about the artist Mark Cline. Mr. Cline seems to be on a life-long quest to add a bit of whimsy and beauty to our world of asphalt, metal cars, and plastic electronics.

He creates installation pieces. He puts a King Kong crushing a plane in front of a diner, a big apple in front a small convenience store, a dinosaur on the side of the road and a rhino in a parking lot.

Some of his work is paid, some isn't, and all of it is from his heart. He hopes that his art will generate some tourist attention and that will translate to some small towns getting a bit of an economic boost. He hopes that his work makes people smile and creates some jobs. He wants to spread color, beauty, and whimsy. Even if you don’t like dinosaurs, you have to love that.


One of his pieces of work is “Foamhenge”. It’s a replica of Stonehenge made of foam and paint. He didn’t cut corners on this piece either. Each “stone” is carved individually and as accurately as humanly possible. He consulted an expert and made sure Foamhenge was properly aligned to the stars and other astrological bodies for the latitude and longitude of VA. So being able to see it at sunrise on the equinox was a real treat.

You can find more information about Foamhenge online. What I’m going to share with you isn’t as available.

My traveling companion and I stopped by Mr. Cline’s workshop to thank him for his work. We didn’t know that he’d had installations set on fire because he was “doing the Devil’s work”. We didn’t know that someone had set a stage on fire and that stage had been so close to his house that the fire jumped and he lost his house. The man has a wife and children. I can’t believe that someone would be so upset about foam and fiberglass dinosaurs, animals, mummies, Frankenchicken, and Foamhenge to risk killing people in a fire. No matter how offensive you find a piece of art, it’s not worth taking a life.
You thought I was joking about Frankenchicken, didn't you? 
His assistant came out to meet us.

I said, “Hi. Are you Mr. Cline?”

“Nope, I’m his assistant.”

“Is Mr. Cline available? If he’s busy, that’s OK. We don’t want to intrude.”

“What for?”

“We’d like to thank him.”

“For what?” The man seemed thoroughly and completely confused.

“His work. His art. What he does. Just…just to say thank you.”

The guarded body language and suspicious eyes of his assistant faded. “He’s right inside. I’ll go get him.” The assistant smiled and walked into the workshop.

Mr. Cline came out and greeted us with a smile. He seemed to appreciate the thanks, but also seemed to be a bit shy and “aw…shucks” about it.

As we chatted, he told us about the arson. No one had been hurt and he has a good attitude about it. He said that whenever an artist creates something there will be loss. He feels that he’s gained more and given more than he’s lost and the destruction gives rise to more creation.

I can’t remember his exact words, but I remember being moved and inspired by his perseverance. I’d like to go on record as saying Mark Cline is one heck of a really nice guy. We met his wife and she seems like one heck of a nice lady.

We didn’t want to interrupt his day and we were content with just saying thank you and leaving. He invited us to wander around the inside and outside of his workshop while he handled some work. He wanted us to let him know before we left for a proper goodbye and pictures.

We wandered. We wandered around projects in progress, forgotten, and being repaired. We wandered around overgrown grass and rusting art. We wandered among cracked fiberglass and fading paint. We wandered through his creation birthed from destruction.

I’m going to share some pictures that you probably won’t be able to find anywhere else. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Fair warning, I’m not much of a photographer. If you decide you’d like to meet Mr. Cline please be mindful of his time and be polite. The man has given so much of his creativity to Virginia it seems impolite to ask for anything more. Please don’t impose upon him or be rude. I suspect that we were very lucky to happen upon him on a day where we could look around without intruding.

Dino's gotta do what a dino does. 

Norman Bates's mother? 

Mr. Slime clearly doing "the Devil's work". 

Love the faces! 

Need your oil checked? 

This cow is designed to be milked. 

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