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issue 41 - December/January 2018
CURVE magazine cover December/January 2018
Push  Art  

PSYCHEDELIC POP

The Brash, Bold World of Mark Dean Veca

The large, varied oeuvre of Mark Dean Veca encompasses a number of different styles. Famed for his love of the surreal and psychedelic, Veca's work is intriguing, often bold and certainly deep. An established artist, Veca has been producing and exhibiting for decades, first making a splash in the mid-1990's. Here we talk to the artist about his work, his inspiration and his plans for the future.

When and how did realize your passion for art and what were the first steps you took?
When I was a kid in school, about seven years old, the other kids started noticing that I could draw well. They would say things like "Wow, you're a good artist!" and it made me feel good, so I kept doing it. It became my identity and I've never stopped. I ended up going to art school at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles where I got my BFA degree and later moved to New York City where my career started to take off. My first really high profile show was at The Drawing Center in 1996 where I created a large scale wall drawing, Canto III, which changed the trajectory of my career.

You are known for creating paintings, drawings and installations that portray surreal cartoons, psychedelic landscapes, and pop culture iconography ...
Yes, I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960's and 70's and was influenced by the culture there, including the popular arts like underground comics, rock and roll album covers and posters, and skateboarding graphics. In art school, I was drawn to a variety of modern and contemporary artists like Franz Kline, Philip Guston, Andy Warhol, and Ed Ruscha. Eventually, I discovered my love of French Rococo decorative arts, particularly the textile pattern Toile de Jouy. My work since around 2001 has been a kind of mash up of all of those things.

How do you choose your characters/subjects?
The images in my work are always carefully chosen, never random. I use an idiosyncratic set of criteria to choose images that are personal as well as universal, and that serve the needs of the particular piece I'm working on. Very often they are simultaneously celebratory as well as critical. For example in Pony Show, 2015, I painted a corrupted version the Ford Mustang logo on the exterior of a former auto repair shop in a work that celebrates and critiques American Car Culture. My first car was a 1965 Mustang which imbues the logo with sentimental value to me personally, but it's also universally recognized and has religious connotations via its cruciform shape. In other works, like Natch, 2016, I've chosen an iconic image from popular culture (R. Crumb's "Mr. Natural") and manipulated it into a baroque kaleidoscopic composition within which to improvise my particular brand of mark making.

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