By Gabriela Laracca
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Mark Mahosky, a painting and drawing professor at KU, is displaying “The Yellow Drawings” exhibit from Sept. 14 to Nov. 11 in the Fleisher Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia. A reception was held on Sept. 14.
After 30 years of publicly exhibiting mainly abstract paintings, Mahosky never showed anyone these masterpieces. This is the first time they have been displayed since he began creating them in 1984.
According to an essay by Mahosky on the exhibit, “The Yellow Drawings” were inspired by his love of Gettysburg Civil War battlefields.
“[He] explores the Gettysburg Civil War battlefield as a site of memory and memorialization through black ink and charcoal drawings on brightly painted grounds, using the palette of highway warning signs as if to grab our attention,” according to fleisher-ollmangallery.com. “On closer inspection, the viewer is rewarded with works of remarkable detail and poignant emptiness. No people, soldiers or civilians, inhabit these haunted landscapes where scores of Americans were maimed and killed.”
Mahosky’s passion for Gettysburg history was sparked by his childhood in Williamsport, PA where he read many picture books on the subject including, “American Heritage Picture History of The Civil War” and “The Battle of Gettysburg.”
The love was solidified in 1971 when his parents brought him to Gettysburg for the first time at age 7 and then again in 1975. During his second visit, he discovered a book titled “Gettysburg, A Journey in Time” by William Frassanito which Mahosky said ‘blew his 11-year old mind.’
He began to wonder about the origin of the illustrations and what their purpose was. “The Gettysburg photographs and the story of their making was fascinating, but more impactful was the notion that accepted ideas of history could be dismantled, questioned, and in this case, set straight,” Mahosky said in his essay about the exhibition.
However, his child-like wonder became more of a hidden hobby in his teen years. “As a teenager, I began to draw and paint in earnest,” he said. “Art and music were my public passions but I kept my interest in Gettysburg private.”
Mahosky’s interest in Gettysburg was even further established when he was a National Park Service Artist-in-Residence at the Gettysburg National Military Park. He spent his time there drawing the battlefield “en plein air” or, in other words, outdoors.
“The Yellow Drawings” were introduced to the Fleisher Ollman Gallery in 2016 when he shared them with Alex Baker, the gallery’s director. It is suggested that these yellow drawings provide coincidental commentary on the modern, heated social and political air. “The presentation of this body of work is especially timely as our nation appears more divided than it has been in decades,” according to the gallery’s site.
Mahosky completed his MFA at Stanford University (1988) and his BFA at Tyler School of Art (1986). He has held solo-exhibitions at Hass Gallery of Art, Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, PA; Alysia Duckler Gallery, Portland, OR; Fleisher Ollman Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; Joseph Rickards Gallery, New York and Gimpel Weitzenhoffer Gallery, New York.
He has also been featured in group exhibitions at Fleisher Ollman Gallery; the Ice Box, Philadelphia; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, PA; Open Space, Baltimore, MD and Gettysburg College Art Gallery, Gettysburg, PA, among others. He has been teaching at KU since 2004 and curated the “Philadelphia Painters Show” at KU’s Marlin and Regina Miller Gallery last fall. He has also been showing his work with the Fleisher Ollman Gallery since 1986.
Mahosky said that he hopes he will continue to make these drawings. He also hopes that “this country will continue the struggle and dedicate itself to the unfinished work of creating a more perfect union,” he said.