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Artist interview: Marcus Payzant

I first saw Marcus Payzant’s work back in 2008, while he was still an undergraduate student at the University of Northern Iowa. I was instantly impressed with his confidence as a painter. It is hard to describe his unique work, but his paintings seem to teeter between landscape and still life. His confident and bold color choices initially bring the viewer into the painting, but his compositions of common and unusual objects in an environment that could be real, a dream, or a set, keep you viewing. Frankly, the his combinations of objects, and the other choices he makes in his work don’t seem like they would work together, but somehow, they do, in a compelling way.

Following is my interview with Marcus, who now lives in Austin, Texas.

What inspires you?
I could go on for days with this question, but to narrow it down…. I am constantly inspired by my surroundings, and surprised at how complex the world is. The most inspiring thing to me is nature, and the forces involved in everyday life. I’m really interested in detritus and the lifespan of living and non-living things. Much of my work draws upon the force of decay and entropy as a catalyst to choosing images.

Are their any particular influences for your work?
I constantly cycle through new artists and music to help feed my brain, and to borrow ideas. Information is constantly recycled through history, so I think it’s extremely important to riff off of other artists, musicians, writers, anyone who creates something. Right now, painters are my main influences. Adrian Ghenie, and the way he uses paint and art history to inform his work is an influence, along with Cy Twombly, Neo Rauch, Peter Doig, Philip Guston, Karin Mamma Andersson.

I also really enjoy the street paraphernalia that proselytizers hand out. In Austin, there is a wide array of religious, or semi-religious material to read. The lengths people will go to convince others how to live their lives is astounding. So, in a way, simple power struggles factor into my work as well.

Pink Consumption
Oil and Acrylic on Canvas
48x 60”

Have you always made art?
I always made art as a child. My notebooks were filled with doodles and I always thought about becoming a cartoonist. My grandma is also a painter and would sit down and teach me how to paint and draw. I didn’t think about art as a career, or an obsession, like it is now, until I went to undergrad (at the University of Northern Iowa) and really began working on my own body of work.

It felt like it happened overnight. I made a painting that was unlike anything I had tried before. It turned out really well, and the rush from creating something new like that really got under my skin. I think it was in that moment where I began to understand why people sacrifice so much to make things that are personal and may never be seen by the public. For me, art became more about a personal journey of exploration and growth.

What are thinking about now?
Right now, I’m thinking about what’s next. On the verge of completing my MFA at UT Austin, I am excited and also a little nervous about the next steps. My main goal is to put myself out there as much as possible. I feel like I’ve developed a strong voice in my work and want people to see it. I also know that painting for me is very important and I will continue to do it, but at this point, I want to branch out into other endeavors as well. I don’t yet know what that entails, but I’m excited to find out.

Relocating Caesar’s Grave
Oil on Canvas
58” x 66”

What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on producing new work for my MFA show in April. In addition to that, I’m constantly collecting images and working out ideas for installations and new paintings. I am also infatuated with markers right now. I am entertaining the possibility of creating a book or some type of narrative utilizing hundreds of marker drawings.

Then what?
Making, making, and more making. I also need to find a job to support my artistic endeavors.

Yellow Collection
Oil and Acrylic on Canvas
96x 60”


If you are in Austin, check out Marcus’s MFA show at The UT Austin Visual Arts Center from April 27th- May 11, 2012

  1. Lisa Marie Sipe (Reply) on Monday 2, 2012

    I first saw Marcus’ work a few years ago and loved it then, it just keeps getting better! I’m really digging the balance in these paintings between the subject and the color fields.

  2. Deni Stevens (Reply) on Monday 2, 2012

    I love Marc’s work. He is an outstanding and original artist, and I can’t wait to see what’s next in his professional growth.

  3. Donna J. Dubsky (Reply) on Monday 2, 2012

    Hi Marcus
    I have been a friend of your Grandma Ruth’s for over 40 years. I was one of the ‘Hen House Three’ back in the 70’s :)
    I follow your artwork regularly on line and enjoy all of your very ‘creative’ unique perspective point of view artwork creations.
    May God Bless your artist career….Donna