We had the good fortune of connecting with Mark Leavens and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mark, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
My pursuit stems from a desire to inspire others and to create images that leave a lasting impression. This motivation comes from those who initially inspired me. From an early age to studying art, and even now as I continue my studio practice and engage in my role as an educator, this desire to inspire came from those who influenced me from the beginning. My mentors, my teachers, my fellow creatives all pushed me in this pursuit, a strong desire to leave behind my mark.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I make abstract paintings that embody my thoughts on stability and the indeterminate; between what is natural and cultural. I use direct observations of urban and natural landscapes, still-life objects, and photography to explore these ideas. I am interested in objects that feel orchestrated and purposeful in their final form.
Being from Houston, where the urban landscape is ever-changing, the process of reinterpretation and improvisation has had a profound effect on how I create. I have taken the human tendency to destroy, reinterpret, and rebuild and use that within my medium to augment or edit, manipulate color specificity, highlight form, and choose transparency or opacity within my pigments. The aim is to memorialize the ordinary through impressions and experiences with habitual objects before they are forgotten, changed, or destroyed.
Using color palettes, textiles, and patterns observed in fashion magazines, I combine them with dilapidated architectural forms or scenarios. The usage of refined color from magazines layered with the form of the objects I am photographing creates a contradictory mixture of surface exploration and patterns that I can deconstruct. Something new grounded in something mundane or entropic has produced exciting resolutions in my paintings, which I continue to explore.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Polanquito’s breakfast is the closest thing to recreating a morning in Mexico City, a city I’ve come to love. I’m from Houston so to have that in my hometown, shows why we all love this city and its diversity. The afternoon would be spent walking off my chilaquiles under the historic oak trees of The Menil or somewhere close to a quick art fix. Great coffee spots are endless around Houston; something special would have to be Tout Suite. It just feels perfect. A cheap beer has to be at Shiloh Club, a somewhat forgotten dive that no one seems to know about unless they’re twice my age; you can smell the authenticity of bad decisions. A cocktail would have to be had at Voodoo Queen. My infatuation with other cities and their influence (this one’s New Orleans) continue inside the loop of Houston. Voodoo Queen’s juke box is unparalleled and is where my last Halloween was spent gettin’ spooky with my boo thang. Also, they’re shrimp poboy makes for a great late lunch. Nancy’s Hustle is my favorite nice dinner. Just take my money and give me something I’ve never had before. I love when you can go to a restaurant and tell the waiter, “just go for it.” I’ve fallen in love over and over again with every meal I’ve had.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m fortunate enough to have a large support system that I am really grateful for. When it comes to something that I really want to point out and give recognition to, it’d have to be other creatives that are dedicated to getting better at their craft. I surround myself with people who have a really strong sense of agency and that’s what inspires me most.
Photos by Lauren Duhon