San Carlos 1, 2002
Materials: Chalk pastel on paper 46” x 88”
Location at Summa: Juve Family Behavioral Health Pavilion, ground floor hallway
About the artist and this work
This large-format pastel “drawing” by George Mauersberger records impressions of a long-time family destination near Sanibel Island off Florida. The sea, in its infinite motion, occupies the entire composition, shading off into the misty distance where water and sky merge, without a horizon.
The artist has done two other similarly large drawings of these waters, as well as another series exploring the colors and forms of the skies in these same latitudes. In each he intends for a meditative calm, creating an equivalent in gesture and color of the flickering light, the soft rhythms of the water, and the general sense of "ambient music for the eye" that have provided his best memories of San Carlos.
We can appreciate the artist's take on the subject if we just compare this work with that of two celebrated painters of marine subjects, the British J.M.W. Turner and American Winslow Homer. In his seascapes, Homer (1836-1910) usually uses coastal features -- as in Northeaster, 1895, here -- as a foil to the violent beauty of the sea.
Turner (1775-1861), most often represented that same drama through sweeping movement of natural elements rendered in increasingly abstract gestures, dwarfing any vessels, land features or humans if included. Viewed against such traditions, San Carlos I asserts another aspect of the sea, one that the beholder has to slow down to begin to experience. Unpeopled and without scale, lit only by a distant, filtered sun, this very un-dramatic sea is curiously indifferent to us.
Another way in which Mauersberger counters tradition lies with the medium: Pastels are seldom used on the scale of this work, but the artist has chosen to push them to explore how they -- and he -- respond to the demands of great size, in this case, almost 4 feet high by more than 7 feet long. If we look closely at San Carlos 1, we observe how he has varied texture -- rubbing by hand to blend or erase, using pencil or sharpened stick of chalk to accent or intensify -- as well as how he suggests a homogenous expanse that threatens to overwhelm our ability to comprehend it even as the shallow variations of color on the surface only hint at the larger forces below. He says that pushing to an extreme size is also technically a challenge, for he likes to begin with small images, reference photos that are manipulated digitally to inspire the drawing that is, finally, realized entirely by hand.
George Mauersberger has been producing large-format drawings since at least 2006, when he did a series of larger-than-life charcoal portraits for an exhibition, "On the Wall," at Cleveland State, where he taught drawing since 1987, serving some of that time as department chair. His first education in the visual arts, however, came when he enrolled in the correspondence "Famous Artists Course" (which some will recall was often advertised on the back pages of Boys' Life or on matchbook covers). The positive feedback he received led him to enroll in the foundations program at the Pratt Institute and thereafter at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh for the B.F.A. in drawing. Beginning his career as an illustrator, over time, he found himself interested in the ideas that "fine" artists were exploring rather than in illustrating other people's texts, and that led him to graduate study at Ohio University (M.F.A., 1983).
Since that time Mauersberger has exhibited regularly throughout Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York and as far away as Slovakia. In 1986, he won "best work on paper" in the May Show, then an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship 1999, and a Cleveland Creative Workforce Fellowship in 2011. He has completed commissions for the Key Corp and for the Cleveland Indians and has had solo exhibitions at the Bonfoey Gallery in Cleveland and at Butler Institute of American Art (Youngstown).
Where you can see more of this artist’s work
In addition to having work in the collection of the Cleveland Clinic, George Mauersberger has also exhibited at the Transformer Station. You can find a good overview of that work, as well as artist statements and some published thoughts, on his website.