Mark Cowardin is a sculptor who received his MFA at the University of Arizona in 2001. Today he lives in Lawrence, Kansas and he is a professor of art at Johnson Community College in Overland Park. His current exhibition The Space Between is on display at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, Kansas (May 28 – Sept. 27, 2015).
His profile on Sculpture states:
“Mark’s sculptural work examines the complicated, sometimes troubling, and always compelling intersection between humans and the natural world. His graceful sculptures juxtapose materials and conflicting ideas, and as a native U.S. Midwesterner, Cowardin examines the complex relationship to natural resources that the Midwest sometimes embodies. The implications of Cowardin’s narratives are sometimes alarming, complex and layered, and often ultimately tinged with yearning for a connection to the past and a hope for the future.”
Cowardin’s work is among three site-specific installations at the Nerman that explore the relationship between humanity and the natural world. According to Nerman executive director Bruce Hartman, Cowardin’s work:
“…reflects a decision to “transcend that narrative” and sound a note of optimism.
“A central element of ‘The Space Between’ is a large hollow tree trunk form. Fluorescent light fixtures spill from the ends, falling to the floor and climbing to the ceiling. It’s a commentary on consumption, but also, Cowardin says, represents the tree of life.
“The installation includes a series of undulating ‘cloud’ sculptures displayed on shelves mounted on the gallery walls.
“Made of porcelain, wood, bronze and aluminum, the cloud forms evolved from the artist’s obsession with smoke stacks and smoke. ‘The pieces started from a series of daily drawings I made from observation of the power plant north of Lawrence that I see on my daily commute home,’ Cowardin said.
“The glitzy finishes and embellishments of the cloud forms would seem to belie their connection with energy consumption, but as with much of Cowardin’s work, there’s a double edge. His treatments take us full circle, endowing the forms with the allure of consumerist baubles.”
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