Integral to my art is the idea that the sum of the parts is greater than the individual parts. The components work in conversation, forming a visual and metaphoric language. This language of collage/assemblage is a catalyst for individual viewers associations and perceptions that impacts brain functions in the viewers in a different way than a linear narrative. The inclusion of a variety of approaches to visual language from gestural marks to graffiti/cartoon like imagery, art historical references, biological forms as well as the occasional individual contributions of collaborators to the conversation amplify this. It combines components with a specific history and de-contextualizes them in relationship to each other. The diverse materials and techniques – with imagery that is drawn, painted, glazed, and reproduced photographically on ceramics, wood, canvas, walls, and paper – reference cultural history, global influence, and individual artistic expression. Although the work consists of many elements of differing scales, media, color, texture, visual weight, and historic and global references and origins, it is interesting to consider the way in which the varied components co-exist in harmony and work as a unit to convey ideas about the shifting global culture, the development of far-reaching consumer markets, and the influence of these on the arts. The juxtapositions of the elements in the assemblage are meant to involve viewers in an internal discourse about the relationships put forward in a way that differs from a linear narrative. The juxtaposition also signifies the idea that truth and meaning are in a constant state of change. What might have been perceived to mean one thing in an isolated state can in fact represent something very different when put into a context. Apart from my individual practice, I spend a portion of my time on collaborative and public projects, and a portion teaching, lecturing, and mentoring.

Mark Cooper, Yu Yu Tangerine, ICA Foster Prize

Within my collaborative practice, I believe that there is a tremendous power and impact in experiential learning. The physical manifestation of an expression of an idea is far more impactful than only talking about it. The act of dialogue, including forms of non-verbal communication, are crucial in developing a holistic understanding of reality and in embracing. Placing the finished artwork in a public place of respect is empowering to the individual participants as well as the group. Each participant feels ownership through the process of conceptualizing and actualizing their efforts. Succeeding in this effort is a roadmap to their succeeding in the future in any number of endeavors specific to their interests like career choices or ways to benefit from working together. A collaborative effort is a combination of the best of all worlds: a powerful visual statement generated from the dialogue between individual contributors irrelevant of style or skill.

The Northern Ireland Project, Tearing Down Walls, is representative of my overall approach on collaborative works. Through the transparent act of discussing, debating, and coming up with an agreed approach to their painted contributions, the young people involved in this project have made a public statement about the desire to break down walls and barriers that have existed for a very long time. Like a bundle of sticks that is far stronger than the individual sticks, their combined efforts make for a powerful statement on reconciliation. Having had the opportunity to discuss the types of walls we build in our minds, that we inherit from our parents and peers, and that, although invisible, are very much present, participants then came up with agreed upon ways to visually represent taking down these walls. This is an experience they will never forget. It also impacts their family, friends, and community.