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Cultivate Featured Artist: Mark Newport

Mark Newport poses at a table with a colorful assortment of fiberart materials before him. He wears a collared black and white buttondown emblazoned with polkadots.
Artist Mark Newport. Photo by Eric Perry

The Cultivate Curatorial Board is excited to share the work of Mark Newport, whose work is manifested in the mediums of found fiber and photography. He is based in Chicago, IL.

Mark shares his work and process in our interview below.

Learn more about the Cultivate Featured artist series below.

Learn more about Mark on his:

Instagram @newportmark

Briefly describe your work or share your artist statement.

My current work uses Colonial era mending and darning techniques and embroidery to alter parts of thrift store shirts and lengths of fabric. I am interested in the intimate connection between cloth and skin, how we repair them in parallel ways, how the resulting scars record memory and transform both skin and cloth.

How do you go about beginning a new piece or body of work? Do you have it planned or is it more spontaneous?

In my smaller mending pieces like Mend 16, starting is usually based on an impulse or a feeling, they are not planned out. I start with the base fabric, deciding whether it is one singular piece of fabric or more than one sutured together. Then I choose a place to cut a hole in the cloth, and start to repair it. Subsequent decisions follow from those initial choices.

In Mend, a plaid circle has been affixed to a plane of light blue cotton fabric which has been stitched together with navy threads. The fabric is embroidered upon with bright yellows, pinks, and reds that seem to radiate from the plaid circle like a fire made of rust and lichen. It is like a rusting tapestry, and hangs from the wall from hidden holds, creating a strange floating effect.
Mend 16. 2021. Mending and embroidery in cotton. 16" x 13". Photo by Tim Thayer

With the larger pieces I work more from a plan based on a system that dictates the eventual design of the piece. For example, Reclaim 3 I will choose to use the front pieces from several blue button up shirts, and they will be sewn together in a certain order or pattern. The choice for where the weaving is grows from that choice.

Reclaim 3 is a collage of differing cotton fabrics, stitched in some places in lines. In a semi-symmetrical pattern, the reclaimed blue cotton shirts are interwoven with vibrant yellow, orange, and red plaids, the patterns of which extend over the smooth cotton fabric. Buttons line some stitches on the right half of the collage, while buttonholes line the left. The piece is slightly frayed along the top collar, and is suspended away from the wall at points along the top.
Reclaim 3. 2022. Weaving and embroidery in cotton. 76" x 95". Photo by Tim Thayer

What is a barrier that you, as an artist, overcame, or are working on overcoming?

When I was between undergraduate and graduate school I had to overcome my concerns that I was not a serious artist. I worked regularly and diligently to build a studio practice and completing grad school helped me feel more secure with my role as an artist.

Similarly, now, I am preparing to leave teaching next year to embrace the studio full time and that has triggered some old questions about being an artist. Ultimately, I know that making work in the studio is what I have always wanted to pursue, and that my excitement for doing that remains strong. So I will work through these doubts and look forward to making this change next summer.

What is your go-to music when you're working on art?

Music in the studio depends a little on my mood. I usually like up beat punk and post punk music, (The Clash, Talking Heads, Violent Femmes, PJ Harvey, The Breeders, TV Priest, Gang of Four) but in some instances something quieter is needed (The Cowboy Junkies, Aimee Mann, Lucinda Williams). I also love to see local bands and my absolute favorite is Jeecy and the Jungle.

Reclaim is suspended in the same way Mark's other pieces are: with no visible mounting. It is a patchwork of plaids, arranged symmetrically in a butterfly shape. Yellow rings are embroidered large across the surface of the otherwise symmetrical shape, running off of the surface of the plaid with their size. Two pockets peek out of the plaid patterns on either side of the piece.
Reclaim 2. 2019. Weaving and embroidery in flannel. 60" x 80". Photo by Tim Thayer

What do you strive for as an artist? What form of recognition is important for you?

I strive to work in the studio as much as possible and to wrestle with the challenge to keep the work compelling to me.

In terms of recognition, it is important to me that the work is exhibited regularly and ultimately included in museum collections so it can contribute to future discussions about art and culture.

Mark has reclaimed a sleeve panel from a found light blue cotton garment. The surface is lightly criss-crossed with darker blue stitches, and then embroidered with brilliant yellows, purples, and greens. A splotch of that yellow lays happily across the top of the piece, while a mossy flare of the purples and greens orbits a smaller splotch of purple and yellow on the lower half. This piece, unlike the others, is mounted with pushpins into the wall.
Sleeve 5. 2020. Mending and embroidery in cotton. 28" x 26". Photo by Tim Thayer

What advice would you share for artists? Share something that you have learned along the way. Make the work you truly want to make, and choose to be in your studio every chance you can.

What is a work of art that is an inspiration to you?

An untitled collection of Eva Hesse test pieces from 1967-68 that she gave to Sol Lewitt. He put them in a glass bakery case and I love the idea that these tests that are decaying because of the fugitive materials they are made of are contained like specimens and precious delicacies. It is also a testament to the relationship that Hesse and Lewitt developed. Eva Hesse | Untitled | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Who are three working artists that you love and would recommend?

Susan Goethel Campbell, her show of dyed, cut, stitched paper at David Klein Gallery was amazing. Marie Watt whose stacks of folded blankets evoke contemporary and historical narratives through the materials, and Zahra Almajidi who has a show at the Arab American Museum in Dearborn right now.

A swath of red and navy plaid hangs rectangular from two points along the wall. There are two patterns stitched together, upon which embroidered ovals and circles of red snake and jump over the fabric from the bottom left to the top right.
Amends 3. 2018. Mending and embroidery in wool. 83" x 42". Photo by Tim Thayer


Cultivate Artists

A curated collection of emerging and midcareer artists. The featured artist program at Cultivate serves to share the artist's work and process with the community, inviting them to understand how and why an artist creates the work they do, to market and promote artists, and to connect artists to each other and to our network of curators, artists, and gallery owners.

These artists are curated together and represent the work that we exhibit at Cultivate. The artists are selected in January and June, and scheduled out for the six-month period. If you are interested in being one of Cultivate featured artists, please visit our open call for submissions.

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