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29 Dec 2016

Mystical Desert Creatures: Mark Harm Niemeyer Melds Landscape and Fantasy at Backstreet's Artize Gallery

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"The Sun Man" by Mark Harm Niemeyer. "The Sun Man" by Mark Harm Niemeyer.

On one hand, Mark Harm Niemeyer creates fantastic creatures. On the other hand, he is a skillful landscape painter who specializes in desert scenes and Joshua Tree ambiance.

“There are two sides to my work,” says Niemeyer. “There is the landscape side and the dream-bird side. Whichever way the pendulum swings and the hand points, like an inner voice, is how I paint. Now the pendulum is in the middle. I am painting at a frantic pace—big, new pieces at 4 1/2 by 4 1/2 feet in less than two weeks.”

Artize Gallery owner Kelly Truscott has been representing Niemeyer’s work for almost a decade—and will be spotlighting it during a January show. Truscott has a strict policy to only exhibit artists she herself collects.

“I have represented Mark for approximately seven years now,” Truscott said. “I grabbed his card in an art store and was going to call him, but before that could happen, he came into my (previous) gallery in Sacramento.”

In Niemeyer’s dreamscapes, his human-like creatures have striped heads; some appear so real and natural that it almost looks like he had live models.

“I think the main inspiration was from Aboriginal and Maori warriors who tattoo their faces,” Niemeyer said. “… I also liked how a stripe on a figure could help define a contour, with highlights on one side and deep shadow on the other; that really helped with the 3-D modeling. I also like the added color the stripes bring. One of the things I try to do is to make each new figure or face uniquely different, and the stripes help with that.”

His other magical creatures are dream birds.

“The dream birds are mainly from my imagination—a small blend of bird and human, with their human feet and human eyes,” Niemeyer said. “I try to make them unique, but it is hard to outdo Mother Nature when it comes to coloring birds. The stripes help give them that dream quality.”

His other skillset involves painting the beautiful landscapes of Joshua Tree.

“I like to paint landscapes that I have experienced, and that I have walked around in and that I have photographed,” Niemeyer said. “I went to Joshua Tree expecting to paint the trees there; nobody told me about the wonderful rock formations!”

Now his magical creatures are entering these landscapes—opening up a new world of artistic adventure.

“I have always felt like my art swung like a pendulum between landscapes and dreamscapes,” he said. “It is only recently that the pendulum has stopped in the middle, and the dream creatures are starting to walk into the landscapes. You can see this in my latest series, Creatures on the Path.”

Niemeyer’s work has been at galleries since the 1980s, starting at a co-op in Omaha, Neb. Friends advised him that his work had more of a California style; later, in Sacramento he showed at two galleries, one of which was owned by Truscott. Niemeyer was one of her best-selling artists, so Truscott kept him when she relocated to Palm Springs.

“When she opened a new gallery in Palm Springs, I was happy that she wanted to show my work there,” he said. “I currently live in Omaha. … All my work gets shipped out to the Artize Gallery in Palm Springs!”

A printmaker in college, Niemeyer utilizes “swirling strokes and the building up of overlapping color.” In all of his work, the “swirling stroke” is prominent.

“I think I have found a way of laying down color that is uniquely my own,” Niemeyer said.

The show at Artize Gallery will encompass decades of Niemeyer’s work.

“I came up with the name Circular Polarity because of Mark’s distinctive circle/swirl style and the interesting (love/hate) way people react to his subject matter,” Truscott said.

Circularity Polarity, featuring works by Mark Harm Niemeyer, will open at Artize Gallery, 2600 S. Cherokee Way, Palm Springs, with an artist’s reception during the Backstreet Art District Art Walk, from 6 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 4. The exhibit will be on display through Sunday, Jan. 29. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, call 760-459-5344, or visit www.artizegallery.com.

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