Left of Normal: The Art of Mark Kielkucki

There’s something about yoga that brings out the art in me. Of course, I studied art in college so perhaps that’s not too surprising. Still, most of the yogis I know are also dancers, painters, photographers or writers. And most of the artists I know also have a mindfulness practice.

I’m not a big fan of the way Facebook has diminished the meaning of word ‘friend’ but I don’t know any other way to describe this relationship. I have a Facebook Friend named Mark Kielkucki who is both an artist and a yogi. We first met when I began to follow his YogaDawg posts which were too funny in that twisted “what is that guy on and where can I get some” way NOT to follow.

And then I found his paintings.

Here’s what I have to say about them:

Left of Normal: The Art of Mark Kielkucki

Somewhere between David Lynch and Tim Burton is the artist Mark Kielkucki.

At first glance, his Technicolor palette brings a smile to the face. The clarity and purity of light calls to mind childhood summers of years ago, when it was safe to leave in the morning and not return until dusk.

But take a moment to look through the surface and you’ll discover that the world of Mark Kielkucki is one step left of normal.

Children play in pools of water or by the seaside while unidentified flying objects hover (Coming Home I and II). Bodies levitate or drop slowly to earth while African tribesmen watch with casual nonchalance (Fallen Star, Falling Stars). In one of my favorites, Kielkucki’s sense of the absurd reaches new heights as a woman dressed with pearls and black pumps wields an Electrolux vacuum on the sandy beach while two swimmers frolic in the waves.

Mark Kielkucki’s landscapes call to mind the California painter Wayne Thiebaud. Both artists see the world in candied light. But Kielkucki’s lush, purple shadows and frenetic brush work create a sense of presence, place and time. His landscapes sit on the canvas with a quirky sensibility reminiscent of photos we took as children with our Brownie Reflex camera. The horizon line isn’t quite level. We’re thrown slightly off-balance. Made to feel ill-at-ease. In several of his paintings there is a swipe of color at the upper edge of the canvas. What is it? Another UFO? A reflection from the sun? In my favorite from this group, Amtrak North (Delaware), the glimpse of orange feels like an intruder on an otherwise perfect day. Or perhaps those slashes of color are anchors that hold us in place. That keep our eyes on the canvas.

Mark Kielkucki is an artist who startles the emotions. He can, at times, bring me to tears.

Night VisionHis painting Night Vision sweetly recalls Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. Four silhouettes on a damp, foggy night. They stand on a corner, bathed in warm, gold light from the diner behind them and the tall street lamps above. At first the image evokes an inexplicable longing. And then, when the eye scans the painting again, we understand why. The silent silhouettes waiting on that corner include Popeye and Mickey Mouse. This painting is about more than mere nostalgia. This painting mourns lost childhoods.

Kielkucki’s Night Vision makes me sad. And that is what good art does. It demands a response. It turns our perspective a bit upside down. In our digital age artists no longer need to record the world as we see it. They can, instead, tap into our wild, collective psyche.

And that’s why I enjoy the weird and wonderful work of Mark Kielkucki. He keeps me on my visual toes. He makes me smile and cry in a single breath. I never really know what’s going to happen next.