Pop Art and Pill-Popping
By Melissa Pracht - 
Compass Editor
St. Augustine Compass

Painting his interpretations of 1960s graphic art on corrugated fiberglass helped put Mark George in a happy place. Hence the name for his current show at Screen Arts Gallery: "The Paxil Years."

George credits the anti-depresent for opening him up to postmodern consumer culture and Pop Art for garnering him some artistic recognition.

"(Paxil) made it easier to work on stuff, although it wasn't very motivating," George said. "... I was just trying to put myself in a happy place and create an identity (as an artist)."

Based in Jacksonville, George, who had previously done installation art and assemblage, said he'd never been into Pop Art or painting before he executed this series of work that bears a striking resemblance to that of the genre's pioneer Roy Lichtenstein.

"For me, the whole Pop thing is new ... I wanted to do something that was a reflection on modern life, which is about disposable, temporary style -- TV meals, temp jobs, rental cars. I embraced that culture and it turned out kind of cool."

The images reminded him of when he was a child, George said.

"The first artwork I saw as a kid was cartoons. I thought Scooby Doo sucked, but when I saw Johnny Quest and the older cartoons I was stoked about art for the first time."

All of his images are "pre-existing," he said, "illustrations of illustrations." George points out that taking images from everyday life is a main feature of Pop Art.

Andy Warhol, one of his favorite artists, used photographs of Marilyn Monroe and realistic paintings of everyday items like the famous Campbell's soup can to make a statement. But George said he isn't trying to copy Warhol or Lichtenstein.

"It's all about mid-century Pop," George said. "I don't want to ride on another guy's coat tails. I'm not trying to copy exactly what he did. (Lichtenstein) was the first, but Pop is borrowed, it's the mid-century familiar."

Now off of Paxil, George wants to continue working in the nostaglic Pop vein, but is looking to do different kinds of images.

"I'm thinking about a noir theme; detectives, old cars and guys with cigarettes," he said.

"It's still evolving ... right now I'm submerging myself in that culture and doing stuff that makes me happy."

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