Exhibit reveals the god in all of us

Adjunct professor of art Walpa D’Mark displays his artwork in the West Gallery of the Campus Center. Freshman Alexis Turnbull came to this gallery to study because of the quiet atmosphere. Turnbull is sitting beneath “When I am god 1.” / photo by Stephanie Ball
Adjunct professor of art Walpa D’Mark displays his artwork in the West Gallery of the Campus Center. Freshman Alexis Turnbull came to this gallery to study because of the quiet atmosphere. Turnbull is sitting beneath “When I am god 1.” / photo by Stephanie Ball

Michael Saakyan
Staff Writer

The Campus Center’s prayer and meditation room seems to be the most appropriate companion to Walpa D’Mark’s new painting exhibit “When I am god,” but the artist begs to differ.

Three of D’Mark’s five pieces from his oil color paintings, “When I am god,” are on loan until the end of 2014 in the West Gallery in the Campus Center.

“Those paintings aren’t really about religion but about humanism,” D’Mark, adjunct professor of art, said. “The idea that there is no god, that we are our own god and that we can create our own destiny – that we are gods.”

D’Mark’s paintings do a lot more than just show imagery, they tell a story.

With “When I am god” D’Mark uses a character named Wilt who likes to make appearances in several of his paintings.

“If you see a guy dressed up in a wardrobe, it’s Wilt,” he said. “(Wilt) was part of this narrative where he was trying to create this perfect world.”

Unfortunately for Wilt, his plans for a perfect world prove to be flawed.

“He eventually found out that he is imperfect and the world and paintings he was creating was decaying,” D’Mark said. “He found out that he himself was just a painting and ran away.”

D’Mark has also donated one of his paintings, called “A Jindo Understands 2,” to the University.

Director of University Galleries Dion Johnson, a friend of the artist, said he was excited to have D’Mark’s exhibit in La Verne.

“It is a great way to welcome him to our permanent collection; to highlight and see the work in context because I really think his paintings read well within a series knowing that there are elements that are personal, sort of dream iconography in them,” Johnson said. “To see recurring imagery of figures, and pyramids and starbursts and these vibrant colors, the more opportunity you have to get into that world by seeing one or two or four paintings the more powerful the experience is.”

“The West Gallery is a cool hangout area. There’s people there all the time which is another great thing about having art work in the Campus Center,” Johnson said. “Being able to show what I think is really fresh contemporary art for the area of where the students are, it’s stimulating; it provides a culturally rich environment.”

Junior business major Fred Arvayo said he enjoyed seeing the paintings and the messages they evoked.

“There are a lot of Native American messages embedded in them, a very Southwestern take on these paintings,” Arvayo said. “They show a very Central American feel in his artwork.”

A personal favorite of Arvayo’s was “When I am god 4.”

“I like the colors he used and I like the stories that he is trying to share in (it),” Arvayo said. “You can see the birth is coming in and showing the cycle of life.”

D’Mark began painting in 1993 after the influential “The Blue Boy” by Thomas Gainsborough caught his fascination.

“I saw an exhibition on a field trip during the fourth grade at the Huntington Library,” D’Mark said. “‘The Blue Boy’ really stuck out, and from then on out I’ve just been really interested in art.”

With “The Blue Boy” as his visionary, D’Mark began to create comic books and eventually transitioned into painting with oil colors and acrylic paint.

“I think it was my junior or sophomore year that I decided to go buy the paint,” he said. “I took a class at a community college during my senior year and I loved it.”

D’Mark received his bachelor of fine arts from Cal State Long Beach in 2003, majoring in drawing and painting.

He then received his master of fine arts in painting from Claremont Graduate University in 2008.

D’Mark finished a group exhibition called “Sur Biennal” at the Torrance Art Museum and is working on a new group exhibit called “Pretty Vacant.”

Michael Saakyan can be reached at murad.saakyan@laverne.edu.

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