I met Mark when my children were young, after he joined the dental practice of my uncle who treated adults (me among them). Although he, too, cared for adults, Mark specialized in work with children at that time. My kids must have been among the first patients in his new office.
The years passed and eventually my uncle retired. When Mark began working on my teeth, I appreciated his dedication to his art, a passion for precision and perfection that guaranteed my dental needs would be well met, from cavities to crowns, with meticulous attention to detail and innovation. He was available and supportive. One of the last things I did before moving to France was to collect a copy of the full set of x-rays he had recently taken so that I could document my dental history should the need arise.
Twenty years passed. When the publication date for my book approached, I accepted the idea of joining Facebook. I rediscovered Mark when his artwork appeared as a “Share” on a Friend’s page, announcing an opening at a gallery in New York. The thumbnail was gorgeous. He looked so happy, his colorful shirt such a contrast to the pristine white of his dental office attire.
I followed the links and found a thriving commitment to color and discovery. To play. All the vigilance in his dental practice gave way to exuberance; all the concern melted into joy. Those same twenty years that were turning me into an author had transformed Mark into an artist.
This summer, we had an opportunity to see his acrylics in real life. He was exhibiting at the annual Westport Fine Arts Festival. On one of those ridiculously hot, humid July days, my husband and I caught our breath and were transported into a world of balance, surprise, whimsy. Inspired by Independence Day, Mark had just completed a painting of an American flag. Its stripes complemented the lively curves of his lilies; its colors blended beautifully with each other, as well as with the explorations in hues and tones and shades that characterized his more abstract works. I could not decide which I liked “best”; so many were so compelling. A range of palettes as well as brushstrokes stood before me. Yet each work had its own integrity.
When we learned that Mark’s art would be featured in a much larger exhibition – more than forty works displayed in a modern, open, airy and gorgeous space in a nearby library – we were unable to join him in celebrating at the opening, but the timing became a gift. Stopping in to see the show, “Edge of Existence”, on a quiet Thursday afternoon a few days after the crowded opening, we were able to study the paintings, to read commentary, to view each gem close up and further away, to think about the works and be touched by them. No social distractions, no jostling, no interference. Pure ingestion of the inspiration of art. Delight and joy. The way it should be.
I smiled at the one that spilled the lilies down onto the bottom frame. The ones in shades of gray with the perfect red punctuations. The large ones that were monochromatic. And those that were not. The uses of blues from midnight through Delft to lapis took my breath away. His greens softened into teal and cerulean. The blends and contrasts and surprises and comfort offered within the broad range of his work enchanted me. Clearly, here was a man who had discovered a way to express the beauty inside and to share it with the world.
While I was among those who had benefited from his art and craft as a dentist, the whole world can now smile through his art. After my return from Paris, when I had found myself living more than an hour from his practice, I eventually located another dentist who also loved his work. Maintenance was taken care of. But the joy of creativity and beauty is something else again. What a gift to have reconnected with my former dentist who found a magnificent well within that he can share with us all. He loves both sides of what he does and is, indeed, thus doubly blessed. Loving what you do can be very real.