Inside the Studio: Mark Horst (USA)


 DSC_0036Mark Horst

Favorite material to work with?
The materials I use always bring me to the edge of chaos. I love the messiness of paint and its drippy, smeary, oily self. I love paint on the canvas, the rough tooth of the fabric. I love scraping and blurring wet paint with cheap, rough brushes or latex scrapers. I love to draw with conte, ink or charcoal, sometimes into wet paint and sometimes onto toothy paper.

All of these materials are pathways toward engaging the world, slowing down my looking. These brushes are extensions of my hands and eyes; their marks are one of the ways that I am present in the painting no matter what the subject is. You could say that every painting has a piece of self-portraiture to it.

DSC_0001Mark at work in his studio.

What themes do you pursue?
Right now I’m working on a series of double portraits. Most of them I’ve called, “Glimpses.” I like the way the two images speak to one another. What’s missing in one seems to find some complement in the other. It’s impossible to paint the same image twice in the same way, and so there are differences in the faces that I can’t explain or control or foretell.

Putting two of the same faces next to one another is a reminder of some incompleteness in the image and in our looking. I think most of what we see of the world and of one another are “glimpses;” something fast and fleeting and incomplete. If you watch people in museums looking at paintings, it seems that we hardly look at all. Even the paintings that appeal to us get little pause and then we’re on to the next. The double portraits say, “Look some more.”

DSC_0012Working on a painting.

How many years as an artist?
When I was a kid, I built a potter’s wheel and kiln. I was the only boy in the junior high art club. So I guess I’ve been trying to be an artist—in one form or another— most of my life.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
“Stop looking for advice. Pilot your own ship. Look at your own work and then look at it some more; it’s telling you most of what you need to know.”

Where is your studio?
I rent space in an old factory building near downtown Albuquerque. It’s cold; it’s small; it’s dusty; it’s heaven.

rrTools of the trade.

Art school or self-taught?
I’ve had so many teachers, it would be a lie to say that I got here myself. I’ve spent time in art school and lots of time learning from other painters. I guess I’ve spent even more time trying to learn from my own work.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?
Some days I need Jesse Ware. Some days I need Arvo Paart. Some days I need quiet.

What’s around the corner from your place? 
Well, there’s a railroad spur running just north of the studio. Homeless people live under the loading dock. I drew a portrait of Rembrandt on the wall facing them and a man named Richard told me it looked just like Rembrandt.


“Glimpses No. 4” by Mark Horst

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?
Today I would go to Jennifer James 101 (my favorite restaurant) and see if the chef would hire me to help her cook.

What do you collect?
I still love pottery, and now I’m living near some fabulous Pueblo potters. I’m hoping to get a bread bowl from Kewa potter Thomas Tenorio. My wife is a fabric artist and we spend a lot of time looking at hand-dyed fabric and Indian saris.


“Glimpses No. 6” by Mark Horst

Favorite contemporary artist?
I have lots of favorites. Today I’m looking at Kim Froshin over in San Francisco. I love the way she has taken the Bay Area figurative tradition into her own work.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
Every day I want a different painting, so that’s kind of hard. But if I started with Chardin’s self portrait, maybe I could trade for Rembrandt’s portrait of Vatters next week.


“Glimpses No. 12” by Mark Horst 

Who are your favorite writers?
Cormac McCarthy keeps my juices flowing and reminds me of the deep streams running under my own feet. How can you not love someone who writes this:

“They heard somewhere in that tenantless night a bell that tolled and ceased where no bell was and they rode out on the round dais of the earth, which alone was dark and no light to it and which carried their figures and bore them up into the swarming stars so that they rode not under but among them and they rode at once jaunty and circumspect, like thieves newly loosed in that dark electric, like young thieves in a glowing orchard, loosely jacketed against the cold and ten thousand worlds for the choosing.”

How can you not paint after that?

61832-12952645-7“The Secret Life. No. 25” by Mark Horst

Use anything other than paint?
I love drawing into my paint. Sometimes brushes are too symphonic. Sometimes dragging a stick of pastel through wet paint is like picking up an electric guitar and letting it scream.

Is painting dead?
My paintings are not dead. In the Jewish tradition it’s considered rude to look at a dead person because they can’t look back. When I’m painting, I’m trying to stay alert enough to recognize when the image I’m working with comes to life. When I see someone looking back at me, I know the work is done.



  1. michel lentz says:

    great artist, great painter!

  2. WOW! You know what I love so much about its people like you.
    Awesome! I especially love everything you said, but what was most amazing to me is what you said about the portrait you did of Rembrandt and Richard the homeless man recognising him. I have just finished reading Fahrenheit 451,( the homeless people are the living books).
    All the best, love your work and words your a very wise person.

  3. Irena says:

    “It’s cold; it’s small; it’s dusty; it’s heaven” – well said Mark!

    • Jacqueline Mraz says:

      Kate: Thanks for letting me know that you respect the homeless as “living books.” I have been homeless owing to domestic violence. I saw amazing things among the homeless and I completely understand what you are talking about. I wish that others understood.

      • libby says:

        it would be great if there were more collaborations between artists and the homeless and homeless artists.

        an idea: a series of portraits of the homeless in a particular town. faces that people pass by every day, faces on the fringes of the daily commuters conscience, faces taken, looked at, love with paint (or light or crayon etc) and displayed in, perhaps even projected onto, the buildings of that town.

        • Mark Horst says:

          Thanks for that. I’m working on a mural project using portraits of some of Albuquerque’s homeless… but it’s difficult to approach them with a camera and not feel like I’m using them for my own purposes. I asked Richard, for example, if I could take his picture and he looked very uncomfortable even being asked. I felt like the request brought up a lot of shame for him. Any suggestions?

          • CJM says:

            Dear Mark: yes. I do have some ideas. In this case might I suggest that if you want to photograph those that are homeless…First, don’t go alone.and I don’t necessarily mean that in an offensive manner against those that are homeless. Although, I believe someone out there will jump on this thinking “Oh what a great opportunity to have material to tweet about…sort-of-matter-of fact how almost anything and everything these days get blown out of proportion”.

            You might want to take with you a female partner who might also be bilingual. There are many of those who either cannot speak English or choose not to for numerous reasons. And even though there are countless of homeless men -statistically speaking, there are more women and children. In this case, you might find that if a woman accompanies you you may find more individuals responding to your encouragement.

      • CJM says:

        Dear Jacqueline: Homelessness for many is a subject as taboo as incest or mental illness, war, sexuality, politics, religion….etc. I can also testify that I have seen and have been blessed to witness to many amazing things, not ‘all’ positive however. Within my 43 years you could say that I have lived many lives…..too many….way too many to be exact.

        For a long long time I had wished that others understood or could feel what I did. But now, it has to be enough knowing that someday soon i won’t have to worry if there are others like me or even if anyone will ever remember if I existed. Truth is I’m tired of living in a world of total contradictions, stupid cliches and people who actually believe that if they have “more” of everything… they truly are better than anyone else. These individuals that are”blessed” with more….much more is expected. Yes. It took me a long time to realize that I can’t measure who I am by this world’s standards. I am here existing on it but not of it. O’ this little light of mine…I’m gonna let it shine. It doesn’t matter to me if I set the world on fire…just I’d be willing to have enough to give to what is Caesar and then be able to light a few others’ candles to keep them going and dreaming. Take heart, sister…Believe it or not, you are loved and NEVER are alone. Whether or not you or others believe in Jesus Christ is immaterial because he believes in us ALL…and I pray one day, many will come to know and accept him.

  4. Mick says:

    An incredible interview, I picked up a few beautiful lessons. Thank you for that. You are now one of my many teachers.

  5. niki hare says:

    Great work, I can look into your portraits, discover things. Big congrats :-)

  6. judy Jones says:

    wonderful portraits and I love the interview :-)

  7. John Neyland says:

    Mark and the Saatchi team, Thank you for taking the time to compile and present such a fun and exciting “real life story of an great artist like Mark”. Really enjoyed reading it and especially loved the advise from Mark to “stop taking advise!” Beautiful art as well Mark! Thank you again, all. JOHN

  8. Michael Langmead says:

    A fantastic interview; inspiring! Stunning work Mark!

  9. Thank you for this lovely interview, I love your work and in the interview I like very much the learning from looking at your own work part! Will take this advice with me, thank you for that!

  10. Mark Horst says:

    Thank you all for such kind comments. Your words are very encouraging!

    • I was fascinated at the dual images of the person, each different, each slightly unique with colors in different places that still show the same person, varieties of races……loved them all. I wish I come to a point that I can be that free. WOW! Your work left a lasting imprint in my memory. Bonnie Tennant

  11. Julie Schrader says:

    Mark…I’m not sure where to start, but….you inspire me!

  12. Bill Cottman says:

    go Mark…

  13. Julie Paukert says:

    Great interview mark. I feel like I ve been in your studio for a short time. If I actually was there I’d spend alot of time studying your work. .you are still missed here in Stillwater.

  14. Mark, thank you for doing this very inspiring interview. It is refreshing to see your work space (it look’s familiar!) I love that you feel the art work is complete when the person looks back at you! Bravo!

  15. Beverly says:

    Strong work. Good lessons. Thanks. Peace.

  16. Jacqueline Mraz says:

    I love that you emphasize that a homeless man or a man near the homeless near your studio–Richard’s position is a bit ambiguous in the way that it is described here– recognized that you had painted something that resembled Rembrandt. In addition, you quote McCarthy’s beautiful phrase–“the tenantless night.” Isn’t that evocative of something in your work and not just where you work and what inspires you? What is home? Is home a house for those who don’t have a house but have your big New Mexico sky? Maybe not if the sky itself can be “tenantless” and refuses to give refuge to those beneath it whether they are housed or unhoused in our built structures. There is a French philosopher named Michel Serres who has written recently in an environmentalist vein that we are renters on the earth. Is the sky, then, also our landlord? Great stuff that you invoke! Please put me on your email listserve. I would love to see your work and that of your partner’s if it is shown in Los Angeles or if I am in New Mexico. Thanks, Saatchi, for another great profile.

    • Mark Horst says:

      Thank you for carrying these thoughts much further than I could. I’m wondering if McCarthy’s “tenantless sky” is something un-cramped and without-landlords and therefor a presence that takes us beyond home/not-home, shelter/not-shelter and under which we are all at home and homeless at once.

  17. Wow Mark….your work is just amazing. Looks like the south west is agreeing with you and your work. I really enjoyed catching up with what you’re doing now. Great work!

  18. Carolyn says:

    Hey Mark,
    Got to know you today, it’s been great.
    Love your place,the paintings coming out of that cold studio are warm.
    first thing I did after the visit was listen to your music choice.
    Arvo Paart is an artists dream so thanks for the introduction.

    Thank you Saatchi for taking us there … and to Albuquerque

  19. Hubert Temba says:

    Very good art work. Mark you are very talented.

  20. millaine says:

    Brilliant drawing & painting- a real inspiration. They feel alive. Energy pulsing through those lines and marks . Thanks

  21. Thank you for for the glimpse into your world. Sensitive use of colour, tone and line cumulate in images that are transient but not without structure.

  22. Sven says:

    Out of the many who present themselves here, you are among those few who are real artists. I like your depth in words an paintings and above all your uniqueness.
    Thanks for inspiring me!

  23. Tim says:

    Mark- enjoyed this brief interview. Makes me want to know much more. Would love to see that Rembrandt on the wall. As a career portrait painter, I admire your Glimpse series. You’re right- we only see a small glimpse. Even in portraiture- you have to make a call on which side or personality you want to run with.

    Yep, most don’t really see. Too busy moving, often too busy on their iPhones!

    Thanks for the inspiration, Mark. Keep thinkin’, keep responding.

  24. Penny Otwell says:

    Thanks for doing the interview and sharing your work here. I like your fresh approach to your painting, especially the part about being present in your unique environment and painting for homeless people. Good work Mark. This inspires me.

  25. Great artwork , wonderful artist.
    Congratulations and best wishes for the future.

  26. Jithuaravind says:

    Inspiring….! The uniqueness captured my mind and made me fly in the creative ecstasy…. Wonderful to glance through..!

  27. Mark Horst says:

    Thank you again for your comments.

  28. Yar Donlah Gonway-Gono says:

    Dear Dr. Horst,

    I cannot stop thinking about what passion can do. Your love for art is seen in all that you said in words and your painting. I am deeply moved by your work. This is what being deliberated is—to follow what one loves. My hope is that you would reproduce yourself in others around the world. I will share this with Charles and the rest of our adult children.

    Hey, I still want you and your wife will visit us one day in Liberia.

    All the best.


  29. tricia brownlee says:

    Great work Mark. You have come a long way baby from your Minneapolis days . We miss you at Park.

  30. Christie says:

    The universe offered me a little gift when she led me to this interview! I was pretty much smiling and nodding in total agreement the whole time I was reading!

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  32. Hayat Gul says:

    Amazing work, wow!

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