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Marko Stout's "Chelsea Girls" Uncovers Manhattan's Gritty,
Urban Rhythms

by David Moore

Marko Stout's "Chelsea Girls" project depicts contemporary women's changing roles amidst the grit, energy, and excitement of modern city life. His work incorporates photography, pop collage, digital and traditional art, as well as film in showing what he calls the, "human spirit in its most raw form."

Born in South Africa, Marko's journey was not the path of a conventional artist. His family relocated to the U.S. and Marko spent his early years in the tri-state area. His early vocation was that of a practicing orthopedic doctor and medical illustrator in New York City.

Marko Stout

A brief detour to Sausalito, California set his sights and his life in a new direction. Marko returned as a man with a "knack for painting." He has managed to create a foothold in the New York City art scene by embracing the changes in technology that give him the means to capture the dynamic, fast paced "patterns and rhythms of the city."

You're taking your series, "Chelsea Girls" on an international tour from New York to Europe and then back to Los Angeles. Could you tell us who or what inspired the work?

Yes, the series is inspired by women who live in the Chelsea area of New York City. Unlike most other parts of the city where increased rent has priced out a lot of the original character within those neighborhoods, Chelsea has managed to retain much of its authentic color and grit. So, oftentimes for lunch I would go to local cafes and have a few drinks and participate in the New York pastime of people watching. In Chelsea, you never knew what kind of unique individual would cross your gaze. It's from this neighborhood's vibrant, gritty existence and the many authentic, unique characters within it that is behind the inspiration and energy for this project.

Do you feel that there is a particular, outstanding theme to "Chelsea Girls" or is it a part of a sequential narrative you are creating?

There is no major narrative connection between the pieces and each work has its own individual message, although there are certainly some reoccurring themes within the project. For example, frequent use of vibrant colors such as red and yellow symbolize the excitement and energy of New York City. Also, the models are portrayed as unaware of the gritty, fast-paced environment surrounding them. Examining women's role in contemporary, fast-paced society and showing the human spirit in its most raw form is very prominent throughout. Ultimately, we're trying to capture the patterns and rhythms of the city.

Who and what were your influences?

I like the aesthetics that pop artists use. Andy Warhol is obviously a major influence. Richard Hamilton especially, who did a lot of collage work early on. I incorporate a lot of collage elements now and that is a very direct influence from these guys. Currently, somebody whom I really admire is Dustin Yellin, whose work I recently saw at the Lincoln Center. He has a lot of vibrant colors and acrylics in his installation. Also, I'm incorporating video elements into my installations now and I receive a little influence from French and Italian "Neo-Realist" cinema, specifically in the posture of my models and a certain detachment that you can see in their eyes.

Could you go into detail about your process? Specifically, how do you use digital media to create the work?

We live in modern times and we have so many materials available to us. I think it's foolish if artists don't take full advantage of what's available to them. Artists in the past had utilized the latest technologies, so I think it's silly that artists will limit themselves to a particular medium when there is so much available to get your point across.

The latest stuff I've been doing that I really like is where I start with a basic picture or idea I might have for a work which will result in an image that is usually photographic or digital in nature. Then I'm able to add elements to the work manually or through digital alterations and can create layers to the imagery. From this, I'll make a print from this image that is very high resolution and high quality thanks to the availability of very advanced digital printers. The print can then be sandwiched between a layer of aluminum composite on the back and an acrylic upper layer, which helps the images pop with vibrant colors.

Marko Stout

Not all of my prints use layered imagery but most of what will be featured at the New York Art Expo will be a layered image. What's interesting about these images is that many of the layered effects can really only be viewed in person at the show and can't be seen by looking at a photograph. When individuals actually get close to the work they will be able to notice that there is something else in there. This adds an additional element of experience that's really only possible by being at the installation or seeing the work up close.

It's really great to see when people start to pick up on some of the subtleties in the work that at first glance they didn't realize were there. Viewing the work at an art show is completely different than seeing the image on the Internet and this coincides with this great energy that courses throughout the event. Which is why I really like art shows, there's so much energy surrounding the diverse people and exhibitions and my own installation that it feels like a live rock show.

In addition to prints, you also create video installations like Manhattan Project No.09. What was the catalyst behind it? What is the process behind making video installations?

The installation format is another way of presenting the artwork. When you start incorporating video you can really get across a certain flow that's fast paced and high energy reflecting the contemporary environment we live in. The video is very fast paced and in your face so it really compliments the energy that we're going for in the rest of the work.

The process behind making video installations is more complex than creating prints. You have the video itself that you must edit down while keeping the artistic integrity of the work. You also have to work with not just the visual element but also sound to figure out how to make the piece flow and convey the message. It's a little more challenging and complicated for me in those aspects than doing flat, static prints but I certainly like the dynamic nature of video when you juxtaposition it next to a flat, static print. Dynamic, moving, accelerated images can really get across the energy that we're trying to capture.

When you were growing up, did you think you would be an artist?

No, I had a pretty traditional background. When I was a kid I told my mom I wanted to be an astronaut and go to the moon. I never thought about art as an actual career. I enjoyed it though, and was always daydreaming and doodling during class, sketching things. One Halloween, I even dressed like Andy Warhol. None of the other kids knew who I was - they thought I was just some random dude with white hair. I thought it was an art skit.

In college I chose a more sensible career in the medical field. However, after I moved to a houseboat in Sausalito, California I was in this very bohemian environment. It seemed like everybody had an arty little painting on their boats, and one of my neighbors happened to be a painter and art gallery owner who taught me about a lot about theory and technique. I moved to New York City to show off my art and there was a lot of excitement about it and from there I decided to pursue a career as an artist.

Was there a specific moment in your life when you knew that you were going to change course and focus on your art? Or was there a gradual progression to where you are today?

I never felt like I was going to be artist but I had a passion for it. While learning about technique from my neighbor in Sausalito I found that I had a knack for painting. My work progressed along, and I kept showing it and getting attention so I decided to stick with art as a career.

Marko Stout is an artist based in New York City. His work "Chelsea Girls" and "Manhattan Project No. 09" will be featured at the New York Art Expo from April 23rd to the 26th. To find out more about Marko and his work as well as his future art shows, please visit: www.MarkoStout.com.

Hollywood, CA

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