I dropped in via Skype to the studios of Mark Elliot-Ranken and Bernadette Smith to catch up with them about where the state of their painting is at and find out more about the selections they’ll be showing for their Danks Street opening.
I first met Bernadette in the 1980s at the San Francisco Art Institute. Long known for its reputation of personal vision and expression and Bernadette was was no exception. Working then with film as visual art, her work bristled with social politics and a passion for layering color and texture that has remained with her ever since. I have never known her to compromise her vision or produce anything that she didn’t really absolutely believe in (check out Bernadette’s film site).
In the interim Bernadette and Mark have spent their careers – the past 15 years of them together – creating, recreating and refining their own sumptuous abstract styles. Bernadette describes her process as exploring the “sensual depths of impasto surfaces,” while Mark referring to his current work as “creating dynamic expressions of space.”
There is something magical about artist couples, a kind of synergism, a meeting of the minds and souls, that reveals through the intimacy of making art, a way of relating, as if it were a kind of new singular identity, merged and rising. (Look for other artist couples profiles coming up – Mike Kuetemeyer and Anula Shetty in Philadelphia, PA and Johnie Shimon and Lindemann in Manitowoc, Wisconsin).
On Being Artists:
It wasn’t always easy.
“Actually, I went to career guidance, and the adviser said, “you can’t make a living from art. You’ve got to get a real job and do art on the weekends.”
“ I got told something similar and so I stopped telling people I wanted to be an artist and just started being an artist. That’s the difference between the real artist and the wannabe artists. The real artists need to do this and they answer that need.
Elliot-Ranken and Smith answer this need again and again in the stream of paintings they produce. Their work has a depth of archetypes, almost an ancient feel, and yet something vital and viscerally alive, seething with a dynamism that refreshingly piques the senses.
This show and the art in it are rare as life – it’s here and then it’s gone. Savor the moment.