BLUE HILL — Surry artist Marc Swartzbaugh, whose paintings explore the cosmic to the microscopic as well as forms of ancient pottery, is the focus of the Blue Hill Public Library’s art show during the month of February. The artist, who previously worked as a chef in New York City and Maine, says his work reflects the bumbling nature of his life’s journey.
Swartzbaugh earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he spent his senior year in the European honors program in Rome. Later he was an artist-in-residence at the Glassell School at the Houston Museum of Art in Houston.
After retiring, Swartzbaugh returned to painting in 2016, finding himself drawn to the circular forms of ancient pottery vessels from ancient Greece and China that he had sketched and photographed back in his college days at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Chicago Art Institute. He also was inspired by German porcelain Meissen figures. In his paintings, he developed a character from the play “Ubu Roi” by French playwright Alfred Jarry. “Ubu Roi” is about a bumbling despot, Pere Ubu, who carries a toilet brush as a scepter. Pere Ubu also was the name of a punk rock band that he knew while in art school.
“My version of Ubu has a black hat and is more of a bumbling pilgrim on the journey of life; someone who floats on whatever current they happen to land in, avoiding making hard decisions, rationalizing their existence by denying reality,” Swartzbaugh says. “They could be an alcoholic or an addict in the last stages before they clean up their act. Ubu could also be a court jester, a harlequin, someone who isn’t taken seriously but is an observer, a silent Greek chorus, a fool on a hill watching the world spin by.”
Swartzbaugh calls another series of paintings the “Pebble or Planet” series, which deals with the dual nature of the microscopic and the cosmic. About this series, he says, “I have often returned to this idea of something so tiny or so large that it’s almost incomprehensible, so these paintings could be microscopic or they could be cosmic. They could be like you’ve just jumped into a pond and are gazing through the bubbles and seaweed back at the sunlight reflected through the water. Or, they could be somewhere deep in space where asteroids, moons, dust, gas explosions, and fusion energy are all interacting.”
Starting Feb. 2, the exhibit can be viewed during library hours in the Howard Room. A portion of the artwork’s sales will go to benefit the library.