Ross’ paintings are luminous, atmospheric illusions intended to engage a dialogue between the patient viewer and the subtle layers of color and texture that appear from the canvas. Ross wants his artwork to serve as a contemplative respite for viewers who can deeply focus and lose themselves in thought and time.
As a student in the MFA program at the University of Chicago, Marc Ross was fortunate to be part of a small-group seminar led by art critic, the late Harold Rosenberg. His anecdotes and advice instilled in him Rosenberg’s belief that an artist learns and grows not by developing concepts alone, but through the physical act of creation. This continual, physical act of painting, observation and experimentation with various media helped Ross to advance his technical skills and work process to develop his own visual iconography.
Ross’s visual development was influenced by the atmospheric rectangles of Mark Rothko, the spray paintings of Jules Olitski and the contemplative works of Agnes Martin which illicit an emotional response with no apparent representational imagery. He was also fascinated by Op artists, especially the work of two Cleveland Institute of Art professors, Julian Stanczak and Richard Anuszkiewics. When viewed from a distance, their paintings appear to have beautiful subtle blends of color, but up close those subtle blends of color are the optical effect created by hard-edged geometric shapes, each painted a slightly different color value.
Ross creates paintings that combine two visual concepts. When viewed from some distance his canvases have a soft, luminous, atmospheric glow obscuring surface detail, but when a viewer approaches the canvas for closer inspection, its phosphorescent effect retreats into the surface revealing the many subtle, intricate details that comprise the whole. Surfaces are built up using a variety of acrylic media, including iridescent and interference colors, applied in translucent to almost transparent layers. Marc often draws on the canvasses between paint applications using pastels, pencils and color pencils to affect the overall image and to shift color values. Some paint layers are scraped into with sponges, sticks or fingers. An electric sander is used to smooth out any build-up of texture and to bring forward colors and patterns obscured in previous layers. Each application of paint is lapped over the side of the canvas leaving a visual memory map of the process for those who are willing to look around the ragged edges. In this way, he emphasizes that the surface is an illusion of nothing more than paint. Ross’s most recent paintings incorporate an internalized frame showing the progression of preceding color layers early in the life of the painting, an important continuation of his desire to leave exposed portions of the painting process. Ross perceives each finished painting as a metaphor for the layers of life’s experiences we encounter as we age. As the Talking Heads questioned in their song, “Once in a Lifetime,” Well, how did I get here?