Mark Cowardin is a father, a husband, an artist, and an educator. His studio practice consists of an essential and delicate balance of these four jobs. Mark’s sculptural work examines the complicated, sometimes troubling, and always compelling intersection between humans and the natural world. His graceful sculptures juxtapose materials and conflicting ideas, and as a native U.S. Midwesterner, Cowardin examines the complex relationship to natural resources that the Midwest sometimes embodies. The implications of Cowardin’s narratives are sometimes alarming, complex and layered, and often ultimately tinged with yearning for a connection to the past and a hope for the future.
At the core of all of Mark’s work is a keen awareness of his personal connection to the delicate environs of which he speaks. He notes, “Roots have long been a recurring element in my work. They provide a literal connection between the space that we as humans occupy, and the ground on which we exist. I also find roots to be a beautiful metaphor for a connection to the past.” In recent work he polishes ebonized walnut to a high sheen, showing a refined craftsmanship that is perhaps a suggestion of our disconnection from the natural world. In The Great Escape, a carved, ebonized walnut tree and its roots transform into a hand that grasps the legs of a taxidermied pheasant. The pheasant, caught mid-flight, seems to attempt escape. Perhaps the hand, as nature, tries in desperation to hold on to the lovely creature that can no longer find sustenance within its grasp.
Mark Cowardin received an MFA in sculpture from the University of Arizona and a BFA from the University of Kansas. An Associate Professor of Art at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Mark currently resides with his family in Lawrence, Kansas. His work is included in numerous private and public collections including the John Michael Kohler Art Center, Kohler Corporation, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, and Rockhurst University.