A life in metal, glass and stone
Special to The Union
Nevada County artist Mark Oldland has carved out a nice career for himself in metal, glass and stone. His work is featured in numerous galleries from the California coastline to Santa Fe, Sedona and points beyond.
Though his art is accomplished primarily with metal, his sculptures have an organic feel that he says emanates from his many years spent outdoors indulging in nature.
Thanks to his mother’s insistence that the family locate to an area conducive to cultural pursuits, Oldland grew up in a suburb of Denver where art was taught in school. As a preteen, he learned painting, drawing and working with clay. In high school, he was able to branch off into jewelry and mixed media.
“The county that I grew up in, put to a vote having more cultural pursuits in public schools,” Oldland said. “The school system really encouraged the exploration and the adventure that comes with so many different expressions, like art, theater and music. It was all encouraged and there was a budget to facilitate the whole adventure. It turned me on at an early age.”
The rest of the family also pursued creative endeavors, but primarily through music. His father played the tenor sax, he sisters the piano. One sister would eventually play the flute and piccolo in various symphonies. A brother, now deceased, was what Oldland calls an outsider artist, a cartoonist.
“Our whole house could get a bit raucous at times,” Oldland said.
Soon after completion of high school and a brief stint in art school, Oldland decided to turn his attention primarily to exploring the outdoors, putting any notion of an art career on a back burner. For more than a dozen years, he explored the western slope of Colorado, until he realized there was something missing in his life.
“Eventually spending so much time in the outdoors began to feel a little frayed at the edges and I realized I needed more of a mission than ‘How much fun is Mark having?'” Oldland said. “I turned back to the expression of cultural pursuits.”
In a gradual epiphany, Oldland began to see the creative process as a way of connecting with the world, while offering the best of himself. This discovery seemed to coincide with a desire to relocate west, a move that would eventually bring him to Nevada County.
“I felt like it was time to change my life dynamic – I wanted to create as a gift to society,” Oldland said. “It’s like having hot coals land in your lap. You can’t just sit there. You’ve got to do something with them.”
Sixteen-plus years ago, Oldland took his first steps as a commercial artist, which included deciding what sort of art he would create and where best to sell his work. Creating functional art such as furniture, fountains and lighting seemed the most accessible and the discovery of an art scene in many of California’s coastal communities set his creative enterprise into action.
“Initially, I was wary of the competition inherent in aesthetic work, (because) there are lots of painters and sculptors who do that kind of thing, so I gravitated towards functional art,” Oldland said. “Slowly, I began to experiment with more purely aesthetic art and began to sell work that way.”
For Oldland, the creative act is a connection to the divine, with perhaps his biggest thrill coming when someone who is viewing one of his pieces seems suddenly to be visited by their own muse.
“When I encounter someone, usually younger, who is obviously excited to see the work and they are contemplating what they are already doing creatively, it’s like a transference of energy and I feel a sense of mission,” Oldland said. “When I see the sparks flying, that’s the best information that would indicate I’m doing something valid or worthwhile.”
His love for this area runs deep, but after almost two decades he is now in a transitional period.
“It’s interesting to look ahead,” Oldland said. “I’m definitely feeling the need for a pretty significant shift. I’m in listening mode and looking for some signals about where to go to next.”
Locally, Oldland is represented by the Mowen Solinsky Gallery in Nevada City. They can be reached at (530) 265-4682.
Tom Kellar is a freelance writer living in Cedar Ridge.
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