For many of us, Mark Reader has been a visible constant during our tenures at ASU. Mark’s self–imposed role as social and political activist brought him to our attention almost daily. But few of us realized at the time that, in addition to being a political philosopher, speaker and writer, Brooklyn–born Mark was a graduate of the High School of Music & Art (LaGuardia High School) in New York City and continued his parallel commitment to the arts throughout his fifty–year academic career and afterwards into retirement.
Mark and I encountered each other frequently during the activism of the 60s, 70s and 80s, often agreeing and sometimes disagreeing. But we always enjoyed our mutual collegiality and respected each other’s positions.
Mark served on the original Martin Luther King, Jr. Arizona State Holiday Committee, a turning point in Arizona’s struggle for racial equality. He was also Vice–Chairman of Jesse Jackson’s Arizona Rainbow Coalition. Mark was in the lead in fighting air pollution stemming from the copper mining industry, in the call in 1970 to impeach the Nixon–Agnew administration and in opposing the proposed Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant. He consistently crusaded for increased academic freedom at ASU, often courageously putting his own “neck” on the line to support the rights of colleagues.
After retirement, Mark and his intellectual partner and spouse, Frances, moved to the state of Washington but now reside in Tucson. Mark continues to speak on social issues and to paint. He is represented in the Emeritus Art Collection by more than thirty works. It is a pleasure to feature Mark Reader as a watercolorist in this issue of Emeritus Voices.
The red rocks of Sedona announce the joy and openness of the American southwest, twin phenomena that continue to define the region despite the fencing of its lands and the incursions of the automobile civilization. (ASU Emeritus College collection. The painting is a gift to all of those friends, colleagues and staff who brought the Arizona State University Emeritus College into being and continue to make it work.)
I enjoy painting plants and flowers, as is apparent in this rendering of Chocolate Cosmos, a desert wildflower. By capping its graceful lines with strongly–colored floras, I have tried to show how the plant’s stems both shape and solidify the space around it.
Focus on the human food chain has inspired many of my artworks of farms and fields, markets and scenes of communal living. In this pastel, I have squeezed paint directly from its tube in order to produce the avocados’ defining lines.
The extended travel I have enjoyed during my retirement years has helped enlarge my artistic imagination. This unexpected sighting of the Mediterranean Sea spied from the top of a double–decked tour bus was glimpsed during a drive through the Malta countryside.
By laying out a composition along its vertical axis, poster–style, it becomes possible to dramatize nature in fresh ways and remind people of the need to preserve it. I have now painted outdoor sea, sky and earth scenes from Kotsubu, Alaska to Cape Horn, Patagonia, and from the western U.S. to the European continent.
The workmanship and meaning–systems stored in humanly–built structures animate many of my paintings of private homes and public spaces. I was surprised to see these vivid shades of red used to announce a place of status and mystery by the ancient Zapotec peoples at Mitla in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Modern electricity–producing windmills now dance across California’s golden landscapes announcing humanity’s determination to construct sustainable solar societies. Through gifts of artwork and classroom teaching, I regularly use my paintings as a way of getting young people to experience the wonders and fragility of the natural world.
I am partial to this sketch of a human figure. It brings flesh and blood reality to its surroundings, much as we are called upon to do in our increasingly disembodied, technological civilization. The drawing was created with a few spare lines during a sitting in a community–sponsored figure drawing class.
The artistic challenge presented in this picture was how to retain the butterfly’s lightness of being while increasing its size many times over. This was accomplished by painting the butterfly’s wings on a semi–transparent grade of wrapping paper and using the syringe–like lid from of a bottle of drawing ink to reproduce its marking.
This is part of a larger series called Return to the Land which illustrates some of the ways in which the indigenous peoples of Southern Arizona are attempting to restore their cultural and physical health by restoring traditional folkways and processes of everyday life. (The original of the painting was donated by the artist to St. Joseph's Hospital and staff in recognition of their daily life–giving work among the many victims of modern society.)