American Dreams: A Work in Progress

American Dreams: A Work in Progress
2000 – 2011

American Dreams is an interactive installation making use of common retail packaging and display aesthetics where gallery participants may self-reflectively play the role of consumers while uncovering unsettling relationships between free market globalization and military domination. The installation represents an ongoing meditation on the abuse of power and prevailing mythologies and ideologies of US culture.


Review – Ryan Griffis, “American Dreams”, review, New Art Examiner, Vol. 29, No. 4, Dec.-Jan. 2000


In Search of Zea Mays


In Search of Zea Mays was created for the corn maze at Airlie Center in Warrenton VA, home of the Local Food Project (formerly directed by Pablo Elliot). A corn maze was created with the help of heirloom non-gmo corn seed, a tractor and gps system – and let’s not forget cooperative weather and lots of waiting.  Within the maze, dead-end pathways invited maze-goers to rest and reflect on the history of industrial agriculture through a comfy strawbale seat and text / image investigations into the modern food system’s most prized plant – corn.  The experience culminates in the “Cornference” room located in the center of the maze (& equipped with office furniture). The Cornference room hosted discussions among maze participants, meetings for members of The Local Food Project and at least one birthday bash. In Search of Zea Mays invited participants to explore our corn-based industrial food system by simultaneously superimposing the navigation of real space, data, and ideas in the familiar and freindly (if-not frustrating) form of the corn maze.

The Project was also displayed at the Green Festival in Washington DC as part of Airlie’s Local Food Project.

A Project by Mark Cooley in collaboration with farmer and local food advocate Pablo Elliot.


PS4.  Mark Cooley. Media Fields Journal

Color Fields: 21st Century Man, Heroic & Sublime


Color Fields: 21st Century Man, Heroic & Sublime | 2011

Series. Oil on canvas, 48″ x 48″ each

“We are reasserting man’s natural desire for the exalted, for a concern with our relationship to the absolute emotions…The image we produce is the self evident one of revelation, real and concrete, that can be understood by anyone who will look at it without the nostalgic glasses of history.”

“The Sublime is Now,” Barnett Newman, 1948 

“Landor conceived and designed two projects for The Procter & Gamble Company in which color has been particularly successful; Febreze® Air Effects and Secret® Sparkle™. Both projects leverage a principle called senesthesia, which concerns the multisensor psychological messages color can communicate, a phenomenon I first became familiar with at CMG Workshop discussions. The colors for Febreze Air Effects were selected to evoke the sense of light, subtle and airy fragrances. The colors for Secret Sparkle were selected to evoke the flavors that reinforce the tasty versioning names. We’ve found that the more globally the senses are evoked, the more likely it is that the consumer will become engaged and ultimately purchase the product. In 2005, Febreze won Best Brand Design from P&G. Secret Sparkle expanded the market base of the Secret brand by growing the Secret entry-level market. In these two cases, color sells through exciting the senses!”

“The Profit of Color! Color experts from the Color Marketing Group share their success stories,” The Color Marketing Group (CMG) ‘Color Sells, and the Right Colors Sell Better.’

The Supreme Court held in the 1995 case of Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co., 115 S.Ct. 1300 (1995) that the green-gold color of a dry cleaning press pad can function as a trademark. The court’s landmark decision certified that color itself, apart from any particular graphic representation, may be patented and therefore legally owned as private property. In the years following the 1995 Supreme Court decision corporations have raced to trademark their brand colors resulting in a series of color trademark infringement cases. Color Fields is a series of oil paintings depicting several currently patented colors of the spectrum. Colors include Barbie pink, UPS brown, Coca Cola red, Target red, The Home Depot orange, T-Mobile magenta and Tiffany blue.

When Barnet Newman’s painting Vir Heroicus Sublimis debuted in 1951 Newman invited viewers to stand only inches away from the canvas because it is precisely at this range that the enormous painting engulfs the viewer’s field of vision thereby eclipsing the surrounding world. And yet, However engrossing, intoxicating and pleasantly debilitating an uninterrupted color field might be for an artist or an especially enthusiastic museum visitor, the fact remains that falling headlong into a sea of Red, will likely get you promptly removed from the premises by security guards. Perhaps Newman’s innovation of “zips” serves as a safety device – a visual system of restraints – in the event just such a transcendental moment befalls an unsuspecting art lover within the hallowed halls of MOMA. Leave it to the “zips” to snap us back to the thingness of the thing we’re looking at – a painting on a wall in a museum on 11 West 53 Street.

However remote from the world of marketing and capitalism Newman and many other modernist painters and institutions might have thought the experience of their art would be, the lofty goal of transporting the viewer into sublimity through a total immersion in the product (painting) seems very much at home in the current field of branding and color marketing. Perhaps we only fail to see this common purpose because paintings are considered Fine Art (with all of its lofty pseudo-spiritual goals) while advertising is seen as commerce. Anyone who makes this silly distinction should take a look at what a Barnett Newman sells for these days. It is quite apropos in this context that artists can only hope to find success in the contemporary art world after developing a consistent visual style, a trademark if you will, thereby confirming one’s place in the art commodity market.

En plein air: No Man’s Land

En plein air: No Man’s Land  | 2011

Medium: Faux oil paintings – inkjet on stretched canvas

En plein air: No Man’s Land is a series of faux oil paintings made from desktop wallpapers of U.S. National Parks downloaded from the National Geographic website.

For the artist, the series represents an ongoing interest in authorship and appropriation, as well as the relationship between ecological catastrophe, the age of technological simulation and the fatalism of popular representations of nature that fail to envision how humans may possibly fit into a landscape without first destroying it.

Ashes to Ashes

Ashes to Ashes | 2011

Materials: One incinerated copy of The American Heritage Dictionary: Fourth Edition (21st Century Reference) contained in a mason jar.

Ashes to Ashes was produced for “The Art of the Book” exhibition at Mitchell Gallery, St. John’s College. Instructions were given for the curator to spread the ashes on a nearby garden immediately following the exhibition.

May we never forget (who we work for)

May we never forget (who we work for)

Press Release – Hylton Performing Arts Center


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

“MANASSAS, VA, March 27, 2007 — Lockheed Martin recently pledged $250,000 toward the future Community Performing Arts Center that will be built on George Mason University’s Prince William County campus in Manassas, VA.

The Center, a partnership between Prince William County, the city of Manassas and George Mason University, will create the region’s first state-of-the-art performing arts center, housing an 1,100-seat four-story rehearsal and performance space, two other smaller performance venues, and facilities to support the arts both at the university and in the surrounding community.   Under the terms of their pledge, Lockheed Martin will provide the university $250,000 in permanent endowment funds to support the Center over five years.  Construction of the Center will begin this summer with an anticipated opening in the fall of 2009.

Denise Saiki, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Manassas-based business recently presented the company’s first pledge payment to Dr. Alan G. Merten, president of George Mason University at the university’s Prince William campus in Manassas, VA.

“We are delighted to make this contribution to the Community Performing Arts Center,” said Saiki. “This will allow us to help local high school performing arts education programs and local performing arts organizations use the center for their community programs for many years to come.” 

“We are thrilled to welcome Lockheed Martin as a founding partner of the Community Performing Arts Center,” said Bill Reeder, Dean, George Mason University College of Visual and Performing Arts. “Lockheed Martin’s leadership gift will make it possible for the Center to design exciting and innovative programs for schools and families to explore the connections between the arts and science.”

The mission of the new Community Performance Arts Center is to provide world class performance facilities for both well-established, high-quality, regional art groups and the many community-based groups that provide opportunities for residents to actively participate in the arts, as well as, arts-related educational opportunities for area schools.  

Headquartered in Bethesda, MD, Lockheed Martin employs about 140,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.” 

agriArt: Companion Planting for Social & Biological Systems

agriArt Website

agriART is an exhibition brings together an array of art works that critically engage with cultures of food production and consumption. The exhibition features projects that represent where we are and what we can do to (re)create sustainable relationships with our sources of nourishment and the communities in which we live.

April 21 – May 15, 2009
Fine Arts Gallery. George Mason University

Public Reception – April 21, 5:00 – 7:00

Featuring: Fritz Haeg, Beehive Design Collective, Nance Klehm, Ted Purves & Susanne Cockrell, Critical Art Ensemble & Beatriz Da Costa & Claire Pentecost, Center for Urban Pedagogy with Amanda Matles, Deena Capparelli & Moisture, Lisa Tucker, Philip H. Howard, Amy Franceschini

With essays by: Claire Pentecost & Ron Graziani

Curated by: Mark Cooley & Ryan Griffis