Mark Hall: master of art, master of life

With palm trees, a flamingo on his wall, as well as numerous light-up flamingos, one look at Mark Hall's office gives off the impression that he has a great love for his pink-feathered friends. However, his true love lies in art. Photo by John Cole Kirksey

Professor of art Mark Hall’s office is packed with an array of items: light-up flamingos, Hawaiian party supplies, a giant stuffed spider and, of course, art covering every wall.

“It’s not [about] what I like about art,” Hall explained. “Art is what I do.”

Hall has taught several art classes, including art history, printmaking, drawing, introduction to fine arts and 2-D design. He’s also taught a variety of other courses, including senior ethics and an experiential J-term course on cooking.

When asked if he had a favorite among his classes, he said no.

“I got into this profession because I enjoy it,” he said seriously. “There is enough variety where I can make fun out of something or torture students.” He laughed.

He said that his favorite part of being a teacher could be explained by something told to him by a religion professor, Bernard Malin, that he had met at the University of Chicago. Malin was from a Norwegian family.

“He lived in a big Victorian house, and there was a window seat,” Hall said. “He said for many years when the family would get together and talk, he would sit in the window seat and listen. One day, he knew he had listened enough, not that he was going to stop listening, but he finally had something to say.”

“In a way, I look at teaching this way, that I have something to share,” Hall continued. “I need to listen to other people and I can learn from them, too. But I do have something to share. That is why teaching is the sharing. You never teach what you don’t know. You teach what you know.”

Hall was born Indianapolis and raised by his grandmother.

“She had this little 12-inch, black-and-white RCA TV,” Hall said. “I was raised in front of a TV, literally, and I would sit there and watch some amazing shows. I think it taught me to think visually very early, so I always drew things and did cartoons.”

When Hall first went to college, he started in the pre-med field.

“Could you think of the fear of looking up and seeing me as your surgeon?” he said, laughing.

Hall explained that he ended up “getting bored” in lab and started rearranging the parts of the animals he was dissecting.

He switched his major, first to economics, then to history, and then to a double major in art and religion.

“I got back into art at Hanover College’s homecoming,” Hall said. “It was a dry campus and a nice little Presbyterian school in Indiana. But the dorm I was in was not dry, and we came up with an idea that was great for the game.”
“We built two 10-foot-tall beer cans—a Budweiser and a Schlitz can—and a 15-foot-tall Smirnoff vodka bottle,” Hall said. “The judges kicked us out of the competition we were in because it was alcohol related.”

After undergraduate school, Hall went to seminary. He said he “enjoyed thoroughly” studying theology.

“I was interest in the relationship between philosophical theology and the arts,” Hall said of his decision. “I went to a seminary with an amazing modern art collection, a theatre company, a TV studio, and it was two block away from the Indianapolis Museum of Art.”

Hall even took a course in television and interned at the local television station.

“I worked in public television [station] for a couple of years, running boards, building sets, running camera and setting up audio,” Hall said. “I then went to work at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and learned more about art history than I did in four years of college.”

Hall then went to the University of Louisville, where he took a year of undergraduate to “get back up to speed.” He then received full tuition for a master’s study program for printmaking. Hall finally received his master’s in fine arts from Indiana State University, where he also received full tuition and a stipend because he taught classes there.

“After a couple of years of teaching, it was time to go back to school again for something other than printmaking,” said Hall. “So I took the GRE and went to the University of Chicago in art history.”

After Hall graduated, he left Chicago and went to Indianapolis to teach at Marion College.

“I started looking for another school for a variety of reasons,” Hall said of his time at Marion. “It was Franciscan school, and I’m not Catholic. I had the greatest respect for the Franciscan sisters, though. I refer to them as a bunch of ‘ole broads,’ and they would refer to me as an ‘unrepentant choir boy.”

“I did love the place, but it was time for me to move on … Maryville College was looking for a dead of the division of fine arts,” Hall. “I applied in 2001.”

Hall’s hatred of the old arts building at MC is strong. He even has a series of ink drawings of a meteor destroying the place hanging in his office.
“I love the school,” Hall said of MC. “I love the mountains, but I miss the city.”

“There was conflict at another school I applied for in the art department and other departments,” Hall explained. “There’s a great deal of congeniality at MC. And life’s too short. I like the people here and I like the students—although I don’t want them knowing that.”

Hall will be doing a show next year in one room of the gallery at MC.

“It will be called ‘Improvisations,’” he said. “It will be these surrealist abstract impressionist pieces, and the other will be the 17 prints in my series of Dante: the three infernos, seven deadly sins, a cemetery and a parking lot for the cemetery, three sections of purgatory, and the “Paradiso.”

For hiss version of the “Paradiso,” Hall includes figures like Andy Warhol, George Gross and the Three Stooges. His trinity consists of Mark Twain, Ernie Covak and Alfred North Whitehead.

“It took me about six months to engrave,” Hall said.

In Hall’s spare time after teaching and working on his artistic endeavors, he loves to cook.

“For my 60th birthday, I invited some people from the college and I made 53 desserts and 11 different entrees,” Hall said proudly.

From cooking to television and from theology to art, it would be an understatement to say that this professor of art and former division chair was not a master of all trades and truly enjoying life in his flamingo-decorated office.

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