< techno savages >

by Steve Shaw

Terry Marks paints from the hidden and unknown. I chose 5 paintings* from her series entitled Techno Savages as the focus of this review, approached the group from my own perspective and proceeded to reach an understanding from the inside out. They are all oil on canvas, roughly 24 x 20 inches each, all exhibiting a nighttime symbolic presence. She creates, as she states, by starting with a dark canvas, and then layering on white paint in thin ethereal layers to have figures and shapes emerge at her. As her figures appear, so too do they seem to float up from her subconscious in the sense of an 'almost there.' Indeed, in all 5 there is a degree of anticipation, as if what happens after the scene painted counts more and was too much to bear. It is like a flirtation. The being-held-aloft is more enticing and exciting than achieving the goal. The woman in these paintings is the central visual focus. She holds the 'key,' opens the door, climbs to the summit, but in search of what… we are alone to wonder. In Watertower Door, is she climbing up or descending? Does it matter? In the context of a modern city, the figure travels in rude clothes; her path lit by idolatrous candles and matches. In search—in motion—with a bird as her familiar, she plumbs the depths of a subway and arises in questioning to the roof of a building armed with primitive analog 'maps,' to find and understand the 'motherboard;' the symbolic life-giving and lifeless heart to the digital city she is a part of and apart from. The wanderer ends up near a pyre. Transfixed, the transformation is complete as the phoenix flies out from her chest while dust settles around the building which have been abandoned. They still are populated, as the lights in the distant windows attest, but they have been outgrown and discarded by the woman in the foreground. 

I first encountered these pictures in a very surreal way. I downloaded them and printed them out not aware that at that same moment, to the minute, the planes were crashing into the World Trade Towers. In the aftermath, these paintings are prescient in a chilling way. The figure tries to come to an understanding of herself in a city that has undergone a primal shock—it is as if the artist was preparing herself for what was to come. These works, symbolically busy without any hint of being cluttered, are a halfway coming-into-being marriage of the nightmare and desire that is the core of the modern city. The silent travels, of the individual depicted, have to be undertaken at night, where solitude meets with primal, tribal passion and eroticism. For Terry, though, the purpose of her art is not to impart a specific meaning as much as it is to spark conversation; with ourselves more than with her. The multiple, possible layers of meaning are the goals she strives for and is what she achieves. 

* (1) Changing Tracks (2) Watertower Door (3) Techno Savage (4) Finding the Motherboard (5) Burning the Evidence

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Steven Shaw is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosphy, SUNY College at Fredonia