Mosaic and Assemblage Artist
I have always been a collector of interesting, unusual and quirky items of beauty that catch my eye. As a child growing up in southern Virginia, I would spend my allowance at the five and dime store on “Made in Japan” figurines. I bought dogs, cats, horses and people…whatever caught my eye. I still have a shoe box filled with these figurines and I occasionally use one in a new piece of art I am creating. As an adult, I worked for an auction company and my collecting tastes changed to matte glazed pottery, earthenware bowls, old oil canvas paintings, picture frames-whatever I could not live without at the moment. I have an eye for picking unique items that may be in my possession for years before I use it in an art piece.
I sew and enjoy embroidery and crewel needlework. Years ago I bought a Skil Saw and learned to cut cows, bears, and cats from wood. My favorite piece is a horse made with recycled red barn wood. I have gathered wild grapevines and designed wreathes embellished with silk flowers. I have explored and enjoyed doing many different art forms, not knowing where they would eventually lead me. In the mid 1980’s, I discovered mosaic birdhouses and decided “I can do that”. I started by breaking plates from my collection with a hammer on my basement floor and attaching them to wooden birdhouses with mastic glue. Then I discovered grout with adhesive and a nipper with wheels. Now I am able to be more exacting with cuts and breaks, which lets me create more intricate designs. The grout with adhesive allows me to attach any object to the substrate without glue.
Designing and creating mosaic pieces gives me an opportunity to enjoy collecting and be creative at the same time. I recently finished a piece named “The Watering Can” and I was able to incorporate a broken Hummel Boy figurine purchased during my auction days as part of the design. Perfect! Now I am making Memory Jugs, one of the oldest forms of American folk art. They memorialize the dead and were first discovered in the southern states. Some scholars believe they were made by the slaves to hold the spirit of the deceased inside the jug and to display their personal items outside the jug. Victorian ladies made memory jugs to display mementos of their loved ones on mantels and tabletops. By using my collections, my memory jugs capture a unique theme or feeling or they represent a person in my life. My mosaic art is now creating Memories I can share with others.
I recently started constructing assemblage art. Assemblage is a natural extension of mosaic art. Both art forms are three dimensional. It allows me to use my collections on different surfaces and organize my creative vision into endless shapes and forms which create more Memories. “Deer Oak” was assembled with found deer antlers to represent a tree for an art show with a “Tree” theme.
I have enjoyed the workshops of mosaic artists Laura Beth Zuckerman, Susan Welcher, Eric Nelson and Cathy Ambrose Smith. Each artist has increased my knowledge of techniques, design and color and reinforced my love of mosaic art in many forms. I look forward to continuing to learn and explore my natural creativity by creating new art pieces. I enjoy recycling my collections into Memories that will spark a Memory in the observer of my art.
Mark Prieto lives on a small farm and does a majority of his painting from memory. He has recently started on a journey of sharing his paintings with others since meeting a new friend. This new friend, a lifetime artist and retired art teacher, loves helping other artists. Prieto’s friend doesn’t want the spotlight on her. Prieto grew up on a tobacco farm in Amelia, Virginia. He has been painting since he was 7 years old.
“When you see my paintings, it is like looking at a photo album of my life,” shares Prieto, “I also do fun paintings…my granddaughters inspire me.”
When asked, by email, what would be his favorite painting? Prieto responds by sending a painting along with the description of who each family member and person in the painting is and where he or she are located. Others have described Prieto’s work as "folk art" and "primitive art;" a better description would be “memory artwork” because this is exactly what he shares…memories.
Prieto moved to his small farm from the Buckingham area in the spring of 2017. Since then he has worked with his friend to actively share his “memory” artwork.