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EDWARD MARECAK
 

It is with no little delight, even glee, that we break precedent to posthumously honor an American artist whose work and wit provide are sounding contribution to national culture which deserves far wider recognition than it has thus far achieved.
Edward Marecak (1919-1993), a Denver art teacher whose exhibitions, overall, were far too regionalized and infrequent, produced an extravagant progression of distinctive work, in his very own artistic dialect, which refreshes and invigorates the senses and imagination with an unerring zest for life’s most playfully responsive joys. His kaleidoscopic narratives, keenly aware of the spiral nature of time, inject a mythic presence into the seasons of life, investing venerable gods, and most particularly goddesses, with contemporary vestments and concerns; fresh bodies and outlooks; slyly and humorously raveling logics of folklore into concurrent event and celebrating, always, passions of sensual existence and privileges of observation.
Born near Cleveland, Ohio to parents whose household was saturated with the fables, customs and wisdoms of their Carpathian Mountain homeland, Marecak is remembered as a boy not only for his predilection to exceptional visual pursuits but for a remarkable verbal facility in storytelling. He studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art on full scholarship and at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan before and after his years of military service during WWII.

When Marecak was invited to teach a summer art course at the University of Colorado in Boulder in the early 1950s, he was sufficiently elated by the experience to acquire the credentials that would enable him for a 25-year career teaching in Denver’s public schools system. You catch a sense of the dedication which bound him to the task in this snatch from a 1958 letter: “...a day in which 170 odd little creatures are exposed to culture and the joy of working with one’s hands and head- a day where the new Marecak truly rules- a day of police methods, of love, of psychoanalysis, of jokes, of irritation, of wonderful bubble ideas...I become father, mother, monster, teacher, policeman, psychologist, artist and even an ideal. I am all of these things five times a day and more...I love school, I love the work, I hate the red tape and hot air...” Needless to say, students thrived under his guidance, winning 15 of 100 regional awards shortly after this letter was written where the year before, in the Colorado-Utah-Wyoming competition, only 2 had been given in the entire state of Colorado.

Even Marecak’s devotion to the art of education could not slow the gush of the Art of art in the soul of his creative compulsions but the showcasing of achievement, the “red tape” of artistry, was often shaded with neglect. His paintings usually stayed in “their hidey hole in the basement,” as he put it in a letter, until a special occasion would prompt them into the open: “I finally found a gallery I think I can trust and if they don’t fold up and go away to the stars I will have a large one man show in December. I don’t look forward to all the mats and frames but it’s time I let my children be looked at again.” On another occasion he would comment “Well, all the awful mickey mouse of getting a show underway is behind me...I am doing this show to once and for all get rid of- ‘Ed you must let the public see these.’ OK public, here I am, now plunk down a buck or two or shut up.”

Marecak’s art struck a glancing blow to national culture in 1968 when Hollywood notable Hugh Benson not only sponsored an invitational exhibit of 220 of his works at Martin Lowitz Galleries in Beverly Hills, California but rented six of them for use in The Outcasts television series. In this eventful year, as Picasso’s “La Pointe de la lite” brought £125,000 at Sotheby’s of London and the Museum of Modern Art celebrated Dada and Surrealism on the “other” coast, Marecak returned from the West Coast extravaganza at Lowitz with mixed awe and amusement. He wrote: “These crazy Californians can turn sauerkraut into popsicles, air into smog, and an American school teacher into a gypsy- a Slovak gypsy yet! This show was the most wonderful example of plush horse Hollywood. If it would have been done on a less lavish scale I think I would have withdrawn my paintings opening night and painted dirty words all over the Hollywood newspapers, but the scale and style of production was so wonderfully operatic that I came away delighted and full of chuckles- pink plastic flamingos had nothing on this.”

Another example of Marecak’s distant and indirect influence in a larger world beyond the Rocky Mountains came from the realm of fashion, in November of 1966, when an influential fashion designer returned from Colorado enraptured with his work. The New York Times observed: “Adele Simpson introduced the paintings of Edward S. Marecak, a Czechoslovak artist she discovered in Denver when she gave a fashion show there in September. She called her collection ‘The Art of Living’ in his honor and showed dresses and costumes in the same vibrant reds and greens that appeared in his canvasses decorating the showroom walls.”
Simpson, in fact, coined the term “Marecak red” to refer to a favorite color which would appear to be very close to Chinese red. That would be especially fitting in the eyes of artists in view of the fact that when China went “red” in 1949, it chose entirely the “wrong” hue. It may be time to retitle this color officially but to whom do we have to talk to do that?

In any event, there is ample evidence in these pages of a major talent whom the Christian Science Monitor’s M.S. Mason recognized in 1992 “never really pursued the marketplace, much less publicity,” and Hart Hill of Icon noted had “enthralled a small but enthusiastic group of Denver collectors with his painting mastery since the Forties, without ever being ‘discovered’ by a major gallery.” In this modest sampling from a dazzling array of brilliance which mixes modern sensibilities with Bogomil mystique, we trust you will find abundant reason for our desire to share these visions with our audience. It was The Rocky Mountain News which observed in 1984 that this “Denver artist intentionally maintains a low profile.” To which we can only add “Too low and for too long....”

Small excerpts from Marecak’s letters and recorded conversations
“I want to preach and yet not preach beyond the point of a fine painting, tell a story but not lose sight of art...I like my painters that still sing a joy about life and odd as it may seem even mention beauty. I really can’t get with nylon curtains cluttering up canyons or ancient re-used Dada material from the early 20s, or plays that make one feel like cutting one’s wrists or pots that look like burnt cinders surmounted with turds. I know our world is not all ugly!...I do not feel that a painting is finished as long as I can change or move one thing.... I am still very much a Byzantine designer and my joy with what color can do grows all the time...Perspective- what my students can do to a vanishing point is beyond belief. I always print a gem on the board for their inspection such as if you have lost the vanishing point, feel the top of your head- it will give you hope...Art, like germs and bacteria, man cannot do without and all one can do with the problem is your best- don’t worry if it’s important, let your creative enzymes worry about that...it’s wonderful to catch up with all your ideas- one needs two life times to come near to what bubbles inside...”

2007 Book Art Press