Artist hopes to open minds, mouths


Jared Soares /

Artist Aaron Marable, Lawrence, applies paint to his brush while working on an oil painting. Marable is showing his work this week at Fields Gallery, 712 Mass., during the first of four 2004 Downtown Friday Gallery Walks

Lawrence painter Aaron Marable owns a television, but he only uses it to watch movies.

Too many flashy images, pushy advertisements and talking heads have numbed people's ability to think for themselves, he says.

So when legislators and school boards deciding which school programs to cut ask what function art serves, an obvious answer occurs to Marable.

"It inspires original thought," he says.

At least that's his hope.

"... Opened your mouth to this life," an exhibition of new paintings by Marable, opens Friday at Fields Gallery, and his desire is that participants in the Downtown Friday Gallery Walk will pause and ponder his work.

"I want to force them to spend a few moments in front of it," says Marable, who also teaches at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H., and works part time at Henry's, 11 E. Eighth St. "I don't want them to be able to take it all in in one glance."

Past Event

Art Walk featuring Aaron Marable

  • Friday, January 23, 2004, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • (One-off place), Lawrence
  • All ages / Free


Rapid digestion of Marable's work seems unlikely, especially his largest paintings, which reach dimensions of 5 to 6 feet. Many of those realist pieces contain multiple human figures -- some engaged with one another, others performing seemingly unconnected acts. His style is dark, but color-rich, and there's no mistaking the men and women in his paintings are real people with emotional baggage.

Marable attempts to balance areas of refinement on his canvases with areas where the painter's hand is evident through defined brushstrokes.

And although he doesn't like to force-feed people his ideas of what the work is about (he talks about paintings containing several different Choose-Your-Own-Adventure plots), there are certain recurring themes in his work.

Having grown up in rural Kansas -- Marable was raised in tiny Robinson and attended Hiawatha schools -- the 25-year-old is concerned with issues like urbanization and the loss of family farms. He also tends to blur lines between genders and to use animals to symbolize concepts or ideals.

For example, in a piece he hadn't yet titled early this week, Marable explores men's frequent inability to resolve conflicts in a peaceful fashion. Flying above the complex scene is a flock of owls.

"The owls represent the idea of wisdom and how it's up there and we neglect it," he says.

A few of Marable's recent paintings contain boxers in the act of sparring.

"I'm drawn to the violence," he says, adding that he fixates on interesting juxtapositions. "I appreciate the grace and intelligence. There's so much thought behind a boxing match."

The Kansas Arts Commission recently awarded Marable a $500 mini-fellowship for his proposal to do on-site paintings of rural Kansas towns and then incorporate the scenes into his personal narrative paintings.

The title of Marable's exhibition, "... Opened your mouth to this life," is the last line of a poem by Sam Shepard, a writer who influences Marable with his literary depictions of "hard-working, hard-drinking folks who have a lot of inner turmoil."

"Since I'm not a writer, since I got my gift to be a painter, these are short stories," Marable says.


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