Storytelling is something that human beings love to do. It is the way we carry history forward, it is how we described champions and victories of the past before the written word. So what new stories can we possibly tell now when it seems like every story has been told? Well like one of my favorite rappers Nas says, “No idea's original, there's nothing new under the sun. It's never what you do, but how it's done”.
There’s one painter that is showing us how it’s done when it comes to telling old stories with new insight and his name is Mark Thomas Gibson. Gibson was born in Miami in 1980. He attended Yale School of Art and earned his MFA in 2013. This brother understands how to fully embrace mythology while exploring American history and comics in order to highlight the role painting can play in laying out an epic story.
I am not one to go all academic crazy and fully explain people’s work when it comes to the visual world but when it comes to THIS work, it is actually pretty exciting. So I will give you some nuggets of insight into Gibson’s art practice and allow the work to do the rest of the talking. Gibson uses the language of comics and mythology to show us a history, uncensored. He addresses the Colonization of America through the problematic concept of "Manifest Destiny" by exploring the slave trade in America, the destruction of the lives of Native Americans and the first pilgrims to arrive in North America.
"Manifest Destiny" is a concept that can be seen throughout Gibson's exhibition Some Monsters Loom Large. Now for those of you who may not know the full extent of “Manifest Destiny”, the term was first used by John L. O’Sullivan in an article published in 1845 of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review. The term defined a belief in the United States that it's colonizers were destined to expand across America. In Mark Gibson’s paintings, “Manifest Destiny” becomes a curse and evil spirit that infects all that come into contact with it, transforming them into wolf-men like the leading character.
What describes white privilege more than Anglo-Saxon Americans’ belief that it was their right and mission to expand West across North America and claim everything as their own? There are a few things that could compete but for a quick glimpse of these "Americans" taking up the philosophy of "Manifest Destiny" you can take a look at the Hollywood blockbuster, The Revenant. The backdrop of the film is about access to the fur trade for anyone who was “brave” enough to venture into unknown territory.
Fur was a way to make some serious dough during the territorial expansion of the United States. Gibson uses the fur of the wolf-man to lead us through this elaborate world he has created. Now, one of the greatest things about Gibson's work is that you don't need any of this history to enjoy it. Through bright colors and a serious handling of paint, his work can stand alone.
So why did I spend all that time telling you that historical information? Because many other creators have used historical references to tell their new tales. Like George Lucas using the bible as part of the inspiration for the creation of Star Wars or Stan Lee using the civil rights movement to create the X-men and base Professor X and Magneto off of Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, Mark Thomas Gibson uses American history to take us on a mythological journey never seen before.