Sculptor Mark Cesark opens new gallery in Aspen |

Sculptor Mark Cesark opens new gallery in Aspen

Mark Cesark standing in front of his "Slings and Arrows" piece at his new gallery at 205 Mill Street in Aspen.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

Sculptor Mark Cesark, over the past two decades, has shown with the David Floria Gallery, Magidson Fine Art and 212 Gallery in Aspen. In succession, those galleries all shuttered over the years as the number of places for Roaring Fork Valley-based artists to show their work downtown has dwindled.

So Cesark has hung up his own shingle.

“They’ve come and gone over the years, so this felt like it was time for me to do my own thing,” Cesark said this week in his new space.

The recently opened Cesark Gallery, located above Cache Cache restaurant in Mill Street Plaza, showcases the artist’s painterly salvaged steel works, along with pieces by other prominent valley sculptors with international followings like James Surls and Nancy Lovendahl.

The L-shaped gallery space has two small alcoves at its far end, one of which is filled with pieces by K Rhynus Cesark, the ceramicist and Colorado Mountain College professor (and Mark’s wife).

The walls of the gallery are mostly filled with new works by Cesark — nearly all made over the past year — that ingeniously piece together steel that he’s plucked out of junkyards, cut up and pieced back together as American flags and flat canvas-like wall-mounted sculptures.

The artist said the opportunity to lease the space came up quickly this winter, just as he was itching to find a new gallery to represent him following 212’s gallery closure (212 now works through a digital platform and is planning popups).

“Aspen has always been my best market,” Cesark said. “I’ve sold to people from all over the world here. I’ve got a pretty good following. And I had all this new work. So I was going, ‘Man, I need a place to show it.’”

Among the new works on display is an arresting and timely large-format American flag pieced together from assorted junk. The white stripes in the flag are riddled with bullet holes. Cesark cut these sections from a discarded washer-dryer that had been shot up in a junkyard in Silt.

Cesark said he has signed a short-term lease through the summer. But he’s hoping the gallery finds an audience and sells enough to make it a permanent home for his work.

A New Jersey native with a masters in fine art from the Massachusetts College of Fine Art, Cesark has lived in the valley since 1995. He works out of a large studio in Missouri Heights, where he fashions sculptures through a labor-intensive process using cutting wheels, grinders and welding tools (the artist refers to his studio as a “selective junkyard”). He doesn’t paint any of the works or alter the junk piece’s surfaces — instead making use of the stains and dings already on the metal.

“I’m a purist when it comes to the surfaces,” he said. “It’s stuff that’s been through a lot of wear and weathering and use — you couldn’t paint these surfaces like this if you tried.”

Cesark can tell you where just about every piece used in his sculptures originated. Walking through the gallery, he tells the stories of the discarded Dumpsters he’s sliced up, the automobile hoods he’s collected, the 50-gallon steel barrels he’s hammered flat.

“I enjoy the history of what things were and the transformation of things,” he said. “I take these things that people are discarding and turn them into something people like.”

He’s also excited to meet people and talk about his work while he’s posted at his gallery. Cesark noted that he’s met very few of the collectors who’ve bought his work at other galleries over the years, and doesn’t know where in the world most of it has ended up.

“When I was showing in Aspen, I never really felt like I was a part of Aspen,” Cesark said. “I live downvalley. I never met the people who were buying my work. And half the time I wouldn’t know where it’s getting shipped to. Now I’m here and I feel like I’m a part of it. It feels really good.”

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