For Guy Marcinkowski, a new situation stirred old aspirations. What started with a geographical change became a show that has overtaken Mobile Arts Council’s galleries for October.
“I really do like Mobile. In the seven years I was in corporate, it sucked all the creativity out of me and I really didn’t do any artwork. The last four years I was there, it was so overwhelming I had stopped going to shows or openings or anything like that even though I was in Manhattan,” Marcinkowski said.
The corporation was Macy’s, where he was creative director. He put an end to the 80-hour workweeks when his partner’s mother grew ill. Relocation beckoned.
“I got a great severance package and was here to help take care of George’s mom and so I didn’t really need to do anything, but I also didn’t want to just sit around. I knew going from crazy busy to doing nothing would be a bad thing,” Marcinkowski said.
Volunteer work was his answer. He was a docent and worked in the gift shop at the Mobile Museum of Art and also assisted Dixon Stetler with components of the 2014 show “The Art and Design of Mardi Gras.” It rekindled his creative fire.
Marcinkowski signed up for a sidewalk art competition last year. He also won first prize in his first-ever body painting contest.
It wasn’t surprising. Marcinkowski was originally enrolled in New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology decades ago.
“I started as a fashion design major, then realized I hated sewing. I changed to fashion illustration, which I enjoyed, but the field was drying up so I switched to display and exhibit. When I tried to switch to jewelry design, my counselor said I was wasting my time and should just go out and get a job. I started at Macy’s then,” Marcinkowski said.
Once in Mobile, he was looking through old boxes and came across old Ektachrome slides — “Can you believe it? Who has slides anymore?” — of his old visual art.
“I thought it looked refreshing and new even though I executed the pieces in the ‘90s when I was a poor, studying art student and basically a little bit depressed, broke yet determined,” Marcinkowski recalled.
He called a brother working at a computer lab and asked about restoring them. The slides were blown up, some touched up and others left as is. What they became is the oldest section of his Mobile Arts Council show.
Marcinkowski’s MAC debut is titled “Superstar + Money = Dread” and encompasses a variety of themes, styles and media. He considers it a meditation on the rise and fall of the individual in modern society.
The pieces taken from the slides comprise the “Dread” portion in the Danielle Juzan Gallery. Their palette is subdued and murky, the works figurative and contemplative.
Angular and stylized constellations hang across the room in the “Superstar” portion. Though framed as a nod toward “celebrities, politicians, very public figures” and their status in contemporary life, it has touchstones in the artist’s past.
“My mother called me ‘superstar’ whenever I did something good or creative. Ironically, at Macy’s — you know how their logo has a star on it? — if you did something outstanding in the company they used the word ‘superstar,’” Marcinkowski said.
The length of the Skinny Gallery is filled with more of Marcinkowski’s three-year exploration and renaissance. A sprawling fabric piece is near the entrance, its birth rooted in time spent with George’s now-deceased mother.
“Louise was an avid quilter, very good at it and would often ask my opinion about color combinations and things. Sitting with her, all these scraps started to turn up. I started tying them into knots until it started to become a big piece. Then Dixon Stetler recommended I turn it into community art,” Marcinkowski said.
He sent the assemblage to others, asked that they add to it and document their additions before returning it. Marcinkowski would “doctor it and compose the colors” and watch the growth. He included it as part of a project with about 40 kids at the Herman Thomas Community Center.
For now, his new learning curve is ascending. It is obvious in the variety of media, objects and styles in his wide-ranging show.
“This is all organic, very stream-of-consciousness since I’m influenced by other artists, nature, a lot of things. They paint themselves when I start and it takes on a life of its own,” Marcinkowski said.