JoAnn Locktov, aka the Tileista, deems the mosaic shows of Mark Bulwinkle “energy with manic overtones.” Her post reviewing them is worth a click-through on the American Craft Council site. It begins with this glimpse:
“At first glance the artistic world of Mark Bulwinkle appears happy. Animals cavort, flowers bloom, a boy has hearts for eyes, the sun shines. The cartoon-like images seem to be laughing at us, as if there is some private joke incised into each of them. Upon closer inspection, an energy emerges with manic overtones. We notice that a cat is blind, a dog appears rabid, a grin seems more like a grimace, and a trio of menacing beasts swallow each other whole. The flat, graphic images in Bulwinkle’s ceramic art emerge from his background in printmaking. From paper to ceramic, by way of steel and rust, the journey’s narrative imagery is rooted in the perennial perspective of a 13-year-old boy, crafted by an adult.
“Bulwinkle left his Massachusetts home in 1968, eventually landing in San Francisco. He painted houses, and was so successful that by 1972 he had saved enough to invest in real estate. Instead, he enrolled in the San Francisco Art Institute. Eight short months later he received an MFA in printmaking. After starting work at the Bethlehem Shipyards welding “really big things” (as he refers to the ships he repaired), steel and the oxyacetylene torch replaced wood blocks and paper. I’m sure welding fire safety was very different back then to what it is today, yet he made it through unscathed. What emerged were flat steel sculptures, elaborately produced, expressing a sardonic anarchy. Bulwinkle took to mild steel with the same immediacy as paper. He torched directly onto the steel without any preparatory work. ‘After all,’ he says, ‘steel is produced and behaves a lot like paper. It’s just a whole lot heavier and requires a tiny bit more persuasion, and some might say, masochistic determination.'”