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Six of the Best: Part 1

After a lull in the interviews for this blog, mainly due to my blogging for the New York based outfit Hyperallergic, the series kicks off again with New Mexico-based sculptor Mark Castator. In order to post more interviews with some great artists, at more regular intervals, this new series poses each invited artist the same six questions - hence the title Six of the Best. But while the questions may be identical, I can already tell from the first replies that the answers will be as varied as the artists themselves.

"Plummet and Run"
Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

Mark Castator
: I am a fabricator. Basically that means I am a welder. I work in mild steel, stainless, copper and bronze. I’m drawn to this material because I like to work fast I enjoy the quickness of the medium. I love the alchemy of using heat to forge a very hard surface into something lyrical and elegant. It is also forgivable in that it is easy to make significant changes. I’m all about the large work. I like to say that I don’t make anything I can’t hit with a one-pound hammer.

: What piece are you currently working on? 

: Currently I am working on a monumental sculpture called “she was in Paris”. It is a steel column 13 feet tall with a 27-inch footprint. It is fabricated with steel remnants from previous work. This piece is made in my transparent style and is influenced by hieroglyphic covered Egyptian columns and the work of the Italian sculptor Amaldo Pomodoro.
Mark Castator with "she was in Paris".
PH: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

: The size and weight of these large pieces can be intimidating. I was trying to lay the work down using a block and tackle when the whole thing got away from me. When it broke loose it went swinging wildly around the studio. It completely upended one of my heavy worktables and the came crashing down on another. It was all very exciting.

: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

MC: I like to paint and draw. I am currently working on a series of representational paintings that combine elements of street style and digital art. For the canvass I am using wooden truck pallets and the bottoms of shipping crates. It is a combination of stencil spray painting, digital transfers and brushwork. I like to use the belt sander too. The idea is to use that raw street style and bring it into a gallery setting without losing the hard core edge.

"Spectrum 3"
PH: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

: My mom signed me up for painting classes when I was around eleven and the first painting was a still life in oil. I didn’t think I was any good at it and left it behind. I thought I was going to be a writer.

H: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

: I was studying creative writing in college at the University of Houston and had to take a “stupid” art class to graduate. But I kept falling asleep in the dark auditorium class of art history. It was so boring. Finally, someone suggested a sculpture class at the Lawndale Annex off campus.

It was a revelation. During the lectures everything was obvious to me. I would think. “Well, I know that.” For the first time in my college experience I knew all the answers. Not only that it was fun and exciting.

After that semester I found myself in Colorado stuck on a stopped ski lift with a former baseball player. He had never made “The Show” of the big leagues but he had played in the minors with Daryl Strawberry and other greats of the time. He said he never regretted the path that he had chosen. He told me to always do what you love. There, at that moment on that lift I decided I was going to be an artist.

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.


  1. That's surely the only reason to be an Artist - because you love to do it? (well, perhaps that's a bit of a romanticised view... after all, if you're good at some form of Art and it would pay the rent, then why not "be an artist"?) How can you create new and exciting art, if your heart is not engaged, as well as your brain and body?

    I don't always "like" this form of sculpture - no "real" appearance or form to it, it doesn't "look like anything"...
    Then there is the odd exception - like this chap - Mark Castator - who, though I had never heard of him before, has piqued my interest, both with his answers to your questions and with the photos of his work that he has submitted for us to see. Perhaps his Love of his art shines through? There's definitely a "something" that catches my imagination. I want to know more - so I'll go and look for him now! Thank you!

  2. Isn't Love of Art the only reason to be "an artist"? Maybe that's an over-romanticised view - after all, if someone is "good at art" and it would pay their rent, perhaps that is as good a reason to "be an artist" too... But then, how can you produce good and exciting art, if your heart isn't really involved, along with your brain and body?
    Maybe that's why I like Mark Castator's work; I don't usually find this type of art very interesting. Sculpture like this may be large and heavy, but it doesn't often "say something" to me. It often just looks like a pile of old nuts & bolts and isn't exciting. Somehow though, perhaps because of his answers to your questions, as much as the photos of his work, I have found Mark Castator's work interesting. I want to find out more about him now - which is unusual for a non-representational sculptor... I normally just shrug my shoulders and wonder if it's "really art"! Thanks for something interesting and new!

  3. I'm sorry - Blogger "ate" my comment the first time, so I re-wrote it... Now it has reappeared, as if by magic. Please remove whichever seems more waffly? Thanks!


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