Mark Sisson was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1957. He attended Albion College briefly and later earned a BFA from the University of Michigan. After an unsuccessful foray into the world of retail he returned to the cloistered life of the university and earned an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1984. While at UW, the satirical, political works of Warrington Colescott and Raymond Gloeckler heavily influenced him. Mr. Gloeckler also introduced him to the lusty and physical art of Woodcut (Relief Printmaking). After working his way through a portion of the University of Wisconsin system as a temporary instructor and sabbatical replacement, Mark Sisson found fertile (red) clay in which to sink his roots at Oklahoma State University in 1989. He was promoted to Professor of Art in 2001. In 2017 he was named Regent’s Distinquished Research Professor.
His works have been labeled from “moralist” to “iconoclastic” complementary to the straightforward, linear contrasts of relief printmaking and large charcoal and pastel drawings that form his oeuvre. His prints are often called political, sometimes humorous, and occasionally acerbic. Technically, they owe a debt to approaches as antithetical as German Expressionist graphics and 19th century British and American wood engraving, and their content could place them as part of the long socio-political history of relief printmaking.
Prints and drawings by Mark Sisson have been in over 300 juried and invitational national exhibitions where they have received more than 70 awards. His works are in many public and private collections including the Fogg Museum of Harvard University, The Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City, MO and the Butler Museum of American Art in Youngstown, OH. His work can be seen in the books: The Best of Printmaking: An International Collection, The Georgia Review and An Engraver’s Globe, an international survey of wood engraving and woodcut by Simon Brett.
Why would anyone draw or paint or create portraits or use the onerous and often unforgiving traditional printmaking processes to make portraits in the digital millennium, when portraits of every kind are ubiquitous, thoughtlessly derivative, disposable and made by any pea brain with a cellphone who then makes them instantaneously available to all? The answer is because in their own heyday, relief prints, intaglios and lithographs were seen as disruptive to the comfortable standard and they are now ensconced in the warm embrace of acceptable (historical) media.
My current work, for better or worse, can be categorized traditional portraiture. I find it perversely satisfying to spend weeks producing singular and print works in time worn media while working within—but against– a milieu populated by artists compelled to use every advanced technology to seem “au courant” and who then must share their genius with the entire universe using every available social media platform.