Hall’s ‘To Hell and Back’ on display in Blackberry Farm Gallery

The gallery includes 17 wood engravings that trace Dante’s journey through Hall’s interpretation of the inferno by the way of the Seven Deadly Sin and ending in a Disney inspired paradise.

April 1-30, Maryville College’s professor of art’s, Mark Hall, “To Hell and Back, Mark’s Divine Comedie and More” will be on display in the Clayton Center for the Arts Blackberry Farm Gallery. Although the works display purgatory and Hell, Hall said that the exhibit demonstrates his own personal journey as an artist.

Hall’s exhibited work includes both satirical print and sculpture, as well as prints and ink drawings in an abstract expressionist style. Starting through the double doors into the back gallery, viewers will find 17 wood-engravings that trace Dante’s journey through Hall’s interpretation of the Inferno by way of the Seven Deadly Sins, a parking lot and a cemetery, upward through purgatory and ending in a Disney inspired Paradise.

“The satirical prints in the back of the gallery are my attempt to visually update Dante’s ‘Divine Comedie,’” Hall said.

Hall’s comical interpretation of the protagonist Dante as a baseball fan of the Chicago Cubs, a literal ‘limbo,’ the golden arches of McDonald’s featured in gluttony, former president George W. Bush awaiting his fate in purgatory and many more colorful scenes provide entertaining social, cultural and political commentary in vivid, clamorous detail.

“Whether it is my history, the numerous times I was dropped on my head or my contrarian nature, my prints and drawing often take on a satirical bent,” Hall said. “All is fair game for a satirist, but I choose to question and explore that which most intimately surrounds me. Television, religious beliefs, art, my ego, the environment in which I live or had lived before, all comes under scrutiny in my work.”

Leaving Hell behind, Hall said that his featured work in the forefront of the gallery depict a time of tension- release for the artist and professor. As former chair of the Division of Fine Arts, Hall said that he found it relieving to leave the realm of administration and join the ranks of teaching professors, and that His position as professor left him with the needed room for creative expression that he desired as an artist.

“I had one word : energy,” Hall said. “Since I stepped down from my chair, I suddenly found the energy and time that had been consumed by administrative duties released in a print or drawing for each month since my freedom from bondage.”

According to Hall, the prints and drawings in the front gallery were created in an abstract style that borrows from Medieval manuscripts, like the Druid Dream three spirals, as a decorative and structural look. Although abstract, many of the drawings represent certain moods, symbols and subtly reveal hidden images such as snakes and aquatic life.

In the middle of the gallery stands a lone sculpture that decoupages in knickknacks and mementos to describe Hall’s life. Hall said that it is intended to be the beginning of a series of self-portraits that will be specific to an individual aspect of his personality or life, such as food, spirits, sports, religion and television.

“This next series is my life coming and going,” Hall said. “I’ve already started collecting items for these next sculptures. It’s a liberation to just teach again and have the time to get back to my first love-making art. This is my paradise.”

In conjunction with the Maryville Last Friday Art Walk, a reception will be held for Hall’s show Fri., April 26  6 to 8 p.m. in the Blackberry Farm Gallery.

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