ArtArt Interviews

Interview with artist Mark Gleberzon, owner of MJG Gallery

Mark Gleberzon is a multi-media artist who’s based in Toronto, Canada. Mark has exhibited his work in outdoor and indoor events throughout North America, Europe and Asia and is known for his melding of painting and photography. Mark is also the owner of MJG Gallery which now operates online. He also works as an art consultant, curator and art installer. He is presently working on a series of fall lectures at Ryerson University about his “Musings of the Art World” and headed “Small Art, Big Hearts” in partnership with Waddingtons Auctioneers which raised money for LGBT charities, including One Orlando. Mark has also been featured in TorontoHOME, an interior design magazine. Recently, he discussed his experiences working in the art world.

Meagan Meehan (MM) of Entertainment Vine: When and why did you decide to become an artist?

p4bMark Gleberzon (MG): I was a hyper kid. I only seemed to find focus when I sat and created. But it was high school onward when I decided I really wanted to pursue the visual arts.

MM: What artists and art interested you when you were younger?

MG: I was most drawn to pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. I loved their scale, bright colors and broad compositions. Seeing these artists appropriate pop culture imagery in their work – being a kid of the 70’s and a lover of cartoons and candy – I was easily drawn to and smitten by what these artists did. Another artist who was an early favorite was Joseph Drapell, a Canadian artist. He brought texture into his work and that too fascinated me. I also loved the forms and sculpture of Oceanic cultures including carvings and body adornments from Papua New Guinea.

MM: How do you describe your work? What inspires it?

MG: My work is multi-disciplined. I’m constantly experimenting and seeing how the creative process works. I always say I won’t know if I can master something until I give it a try. Inspiration comes from observation, natural historical elements and taking an exploration-like approach to my process; including mixed-media collage and blurring the lines between my painting and photography.

MM: How did you go about getting into galleries and/or public showcases?

p1MG: Doing indoor and outdoor shows as well as participating in gallery shows and having gallery representation are the most vital ways to get notice and exposure. I’ve shown my work throughout Canada but when the opportunity affords me to exhibit in the US, usually New York City or Chicago, I jump at the chance. Americans are more confident and instinctive buyers. I’ve found, from experience, and are more engaging as well.

MM: Do you have a favorite piece? If so, which one and why?

MG: I certainly have a favorite piece or series I’ve created over the years including my mixed-media photography and my “Chairs” series. But I think what I find most fascinating, is when I look at something I’ve done and wondered “How the hell did I do that?!” Surprising myself when I examine a past work intrigues me. I don’t keep a sketchbook or take notes – stupidly – so the fun is trying to go back and figuring out how I did something.

MM: How did you develop your appealing style?

MG: My art-process constantly evolves and develops. I can switch from one body of work to another, day by day. I’m not like most artists who focus and redo one specific style or subject. But I am finding I’m slowly starting to strip away more and more details in my work, creating somewhat more simplified, direct works, over the years. I seem to be leaning slowly towards a more contemporary art aesthetic.

MM: How did you decide to open a gallery and what artists did you feature?

MG: I opened the gallery as an extension of what I was already doing. I was actively participating in indoor and outdoor shows and fairs, exhibiting my work and also needing a studio. I thought to open my own gallery to try something a bit different. I did everything. Curated. Hung the artwork. Called out to artists. Set up shows and exhibitions. Managed the day to day goings-on etc. And was able to paint somewhere that wasn’t my home. I opened one space in August 2011. Then moved to a different part of Toronto in August 2013. I closed my retail gallery in November 2015. The artists I featured were people I knew from participating in the same shows over the years. While new additions were either referrals through mutual artist-friends or people I’d meet at other shows. I carried a wide range of work including paintings (oil, acrylic, encaustic), sculpture and photography (digital and manual) as well as mixed-media and collage. Styles ranged from traditional to contemporary.

MM: Why did you decide to move it online?

MG: I moved online to cut my expenses. A retail space is rather costly to maintain. I tried to find another entity to share my space but couldn’t; I’d like to have an another gallery space once again. Online representation definitely has its challenges as I’m always trying to orient people to me and my website via Facebook &Instagram as well as by participating in shows and fairs.

MM: Can artists still submit to you? If so, is there a fee? What kinds of art are you looking for?

MG: I am indeed looking for artists on occasion when a particular show might have a specific theme or target audience. It’s always great to (at least) have a visual Rolodex of sorts, when it comes to expanding my reach if launching a pop-up or gallery show. I do not charge a fee. If I do sell an artist’s work, I take a gallery-commission, which is industry standard.

MM: To date, what has been the most rewarding experience involving your artwork and/or being an artist?

p3bMG: The rewards I’ve been granted through my work varies. Sometimes it’s the immediate connection a viewer might make with my art, ‘forcing’ them to buy something without caring where it will go or cost. I also love the open discussions and engagement someone might have with me and my work. While other times, it’s the friendships and circumstances by which my art has found a home. I did a show in New York City several years and one of Robert Kennedy’s sons purchased a small landscape painting of mine. I can actually say one of my paintings is in the Kennedy collection! I also developed a friendship with an actress, who purchased one of my works in that same New York City show. Being an artist can make one very vulnerable as your emotions and physicality can be challenged while the creative process itself can be very cathartic. Having owned and operated my own art gallery for over four years also had its rewards and pain.

MM: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to become an artist?

MG: Follow your gut and do your best to be thick-skinned. Allow yourself to be challenged. See what other people are doing but don’t directly copy what they do. Experiment and explore the mediums you’re using. Enjoy the process. Sure, sales are vital to stay afloat but be prepared to face failure and success.

MM: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?

MG: I just participated in the Affordable Art Fair in New York and am the featured artist in a Canadian interior design magazine, TorontoHOME. There are some follow-up leads and opportunities to exhibit my work back in Toronto and/or anywhere else someone might want to see it. I’m also offering a series of lectures, Musings of the Art World II, at Ryerson University in Toronto over the next few months.

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To learn more about Mark Gleberzon and the MJG Gallery, visit its official website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Meagan Meehan

Meagan J. Meehan is a published author, poet, cartoonist and produced playwright. She pens columns for the Great South Bay Magazine, Examiner and AXS. She is also a stop motion animator and an award-winning abstract artist. Meagan holds a Bachelors in English Literature and a Masters of Communication. She is an animal advocate and a fledging toy and game designer.
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