Mark Messersmith, originally from St. Louis, was struck when he arrived in Tallahassee 30 years ago by the wild nature that exists in Florida, even though it has become somewhat fragmented. He became fascinated with exploring the point of tension between the exotic world, and the intrusive human presence that continues to destroy it. His work explores themes of spirit and struggle within modern Florida’s “natural environment.” It is about the lands and creatures with still manage to survive, though often in small isolated natural habitats and the effects of inevitable forced migration, dislocation and destruction of Florida’s once rich and unique flora and fauna.
His works also references and dialogs with an artistic lineage of American landscape painting from the late nineteenth century (painters like Heade, Inness, Moran & Homer) who came to the Southeast after the Civil War. They came with, and often painted romantic visions of this exotic southern landscape. Though they looked at this world as artists with some scientific curiosity and concerns, they still managed to view and paint it through the field glasses of dreamy romantics.
In his 30 years of living in Florida and teaching at FSU, he has shown extensively in the Southeast and has had his paintings exhibited in Canada, Italy and France. Recent selected solo museum exhibitions include the Huntsville Museum of Art, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Frost Art Museum, Art Museum of Southeast Texas, Appleton Museum of Art and Polk Museum of Art. Awards include the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painting Award, Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, Individual Artist Fellowship Awards and two National Endowment for the Arts/Southern Arts Federation, Regional Fellowship Awards for Emerging Visual Artists, Ford Foundation Artist Fellowships and a purchase award from the Le grande Prix, XXIII Festival International de la Peinture, Cagnes-sur-Mer, France.
Since moving to the Southeastern United States in 1985, I have been fascinated with the uniqueness of the regions environment, and the beauty of its lands and animals. While both the land and animals are vulnerable, they share a strong determination for survival and can still offer potential dangers for the unwary visitor.
The fading landscape I paint, is at least for awhile, out there someplace, somewhere just beyond the urban sprawl, shopping malls, and trailer parks. It is still a land of myths and facts, inhabited by powerful birds, vigilant panthers, weary gators, blackwater swamps, old cypress trees, back road citrus stands and careening logging trucks.