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A Conversation with Marc Waldthausen on the Abstract Expressionism in His Debut Solo Exhibition “Take a Moment”



Marc Waldthausen’s studio is light, airy, and so tidy that you could run your finger over any surface and it would come back as clean as when you’d walked in. The only indication of a mess are the paintings lining the walls of his living room and kitchen, carefully prepped for his upcoming exhibition at RemainReal Fine Art, a Denver art gallery.


In fact, the whole house feels cozy, with pictures of the artist and his wife lovingly displayed on the walls and various surfaces. Waldthausen feels quite at home in the space, endearingly so, as he cleans his glasses and plops down in the armchair by the large window that casts a warm light inward. 


He eases backward in the chair, and his demeanor is soft, but in a way that makes you want to lean in to hear more. Much like his art, Marc discusses things with the pragmatism of an engineer but has an underlying aura of vibrancy and a spark of humor that reflects heavily on how he approaches each piece. 



 

Covering my Scars” Marc Waldthausen




Marc Waldthausen in Studio


“Tell me about your artwork,” I say, sitting across from him and getting out my pen, “and tell me about yourself. How did you get into doing art?”


“I took a few art classes in high school,” he muses, “though I didn’t do much in my adulthood until the pandemic. When you’re stuck at home, I guess you really find things to do, and for me creating art became a welcome release from my job.”


“What do you do for work, mostly?”


“I’ve been a software engineer for…” he looks upward, pausing as if searching for the correct answer, “twenty-five years now.”


In the corner, a speaker quietly plays classic rock to the rhythm of my pen scratching the paper, and a few birds chirp along in the tree just outside. There’s something nostalgic in the overall feel of the studio. It’s peaceful, like the afternoons I used to spend lying with my Walkman under the oak trees, humming the melodies out loud.


“There’s something very technical to your work.” I put the tip of the pen to my lips, considering the array of artwork around the small room. “But there’s also a lot of freedom in the movement of the work. It reminds me a lot of Jackson Pollock or Lee Krasner, yet I’ve also never seen anything quite like it. There’s so much uniqueness in the brushstrokes, very calculated.”


“I draw a lot of inspiration from other artists like them.” He nods appreciatively. “The first time I was really, truly inspired by an art exhibition was during the tour of Ad Reinhardt’s black paintings. In photographs, they have the appearance of just solidly colored canvases, but when you see them in person, you realize that they are just a patchwork of blues, purples, crimsons, blended together. It’s very mathematical, and the use of color really sat with me.”


He stands suddenly, crossing the room to his work desk and carefully plucking a painting from his wall and proffering it to me. I take it as he begins his explanation.


“I used several different blacks for this one.” He stands over me and points to several spots on the panel, where I can see the subtle differences as I rotate it back and forth in the light. “It’s just a study of color, but I love playing around with different techniques.”


The piece is indeed simple but intricately beautiful, like the infamous black paintings by Reinhardt or the massive red paintings of Rothko. There is something strangely transfixing about the painting in my hand as I regard it for several more seconds before handing it back.

“I see you work with a lot of color,” I state, bringing myself back to my notes. “Is there quite a bit of thought that goes into that?”


“The color palette is probably the most emotionally based decision I make for the pieces,” he says as he sits again across from me, crossing a leg casually over his knee. “There’s obviously a lot of movement, but the colors aren’t really planned that much. Once I get started, I’ll pull a couple colors out and just go from there, so there’s a lot more intuitive feeling involved in the picking of colors.”


“I see, and as far as the movement of the work, do you also think about that as intuitively?”

To this, he chuckles and places his fingers on his chin thoughtfully. 


“With the larger pieces, I’m usually there flailing my arms and crouching down and moving around, and sometimes even crawling over the tops of the work if I have them on the floor. I think the movement just comes out naturally that way.”


Indeed, Waldthausen’s work is reflective of that process in his quickened strokes of paint and pen. And I cannot help but smile back as I imagine the man in front of me hovering over his art the same way Pollock was often photographed leaning into and walking on his work with a cigarette clutched lackadaisically between concentrated lips. There’s a certain romanticism in the progression of expressionist artwork.


“What is it that you like the most about working in this style and medium?” I lean back in my chair to regard him. “There seems to be a lot of hard work going into every piece, and it must be difficult to work around a full-time engineering job.”


“Actually, I’d say in my work particularly, it’s a release. It’s a way to go away from that day-to-day engineering job that’s very logical and methodical and at least try to do the opposite of that.” He waves a hand toward his wall of artwork again. “It’s not like I’m doing push-ups or anything, but there is a very physical release. It’s a lot of getting up, moving around, and being active.” 




Marc Waldthausen in Studio


“And this is your first solo exhibition, right?” I look up from my messy scrawl with raised eyebrows.


“This is my very first solo exhibition.” He smiles almost bashfully, but I can see the glint behind his eyes as he continues, “and I’m very excited about it. I’ve been a resident artist with RemainReal for about eight months now, and the owner, Diana-Marie, asked me to be featured for March. I was on vacation at the time and coming home to that news felt really great. I feel very fortunate to be a part of such an amazing gallery in a city like Denver. There’s a lot of community there.”


“It’s surprising that this is your first foray into the gallery world,” I reflect, twirling the pen in my hand as I glance once more over the paintings on the walls behind Waldthausen. 

The artwork itself is advanced, so cleanly and technically masterful that it’s nearly unbelievable the artist has only been creating work for the last handful of years. Contrary to general consensus, abstract artwork is quite hard to do well. Marc’s work is natural and fluid, its beauty apparent even to those who don’t know much about abstraction or its difficult process.


“Can you talk a little more about the exhibition?” I inquire, pressing pen to paper once more.

“The show’s called ‘Take a Moment’,” he starts, “and really what I want for people to have or take from that is their own experiences from the paintings. Maybe it’s a memory, maybe it’s just something that strikes you when you first see it, and I know it will be different than what I see in it.”


There is a moment of silence, cut through only by the music still playing.


“What do you see in them?” I tilt my head and consider him.


“I feel that my own feelings on each piece could possibly tarnish those of the viewer,” he explains. “It’s about having your own memories, thoughts, and feelings with the paintings. I want people to draw up their own conclusions and forget about the artist’s point of view for just a little while.” 


My watch beeps, causing me to flinch ever slightly as I realize the interview must end. Graciously, Waldthausen helps me to collect my supplies and equipment before I turn and give a goodbye wave from the front stoop.


My time in his studio has given me a lot to ponder, and I’ve grown a new appreciation for abstraction from looking through his vast collection of paintings and color studies. I can’t help but buzz with the excitement of the exhibition to come.


This is the work that galleries do, after all. We find talented individuals and give them a chance to show their creations to the community. I am extraordinarily fortunate to go to work each day and be around the works of artists just like Marc, artists who just need the chance to fully shine in a space catered to their art and needs.


Marc’s exhibition, “Take a Moment,” will be on display in RemainReal’s featured gallery in March of 2024, and as I put my car into drive and pull away from the quaint little dwelling, I can’t wait to stand amongst those paintings and admire them again along with the entire community of Denver.


Learn more about Marc here, and don't miss your chance to be part of this extraordinary exhibition. Plan your visit to the gallery in Denver today and discover the profound beauty of “Take a Moment.”

 



Introspection” Marc Waldthausen


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