by Mark Rucker

Part 1

Introduction

In the 1980s, I set out to create a modern version of a medieval triptych, a three part painting. I completed two canvases of the three, but barely got started on the central panel. It was not until 2021 that I was able to coalesce the ideas and forces that would manifest the piece.

In 2022, I finished it.

If you’ve ever heard of me, it would likely be in connection with pictures.

I’ve made pictures,

fixed pictures,

photocopied pictures,

bought pictures,

sold pictures,

packaged pictures,

shipped pictures,

digitized pictures,

corrected pictures,

and took pictures of pictures.

If you’ve ever heard of me, it would likely be in connection with pictures.

I’ve made pictures,

fixed pictures,

photocopied pictures,

bought pictures,

sold pictures,

packaged pictures,

shipped pictures,

digitized pictures,

corrected pictures,

and took pictures of pictures.

mark rucker

I spent much time around art and artists in my youth.

I never studied art history, but I read a lot on my own. I did not want the common timeline to interfere with my work. I didn’t want to become predictable or to sell out.

Mark Rucker at work as an artist.

The Alterpiece now has a life of its own. I can talk about it as if I had nothing to do with it.

Part 2

Triptych History

The triptych involves three paintings placed in a folding frame, which presents different aspects when opened or closed.

Triptych art became popular in Europe in the late 14th century and blossomed in the 15th century with Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece.

Art was used as an ancient form of emotional and visual control.

Christian churches have historically used art, paintings, and sculptures to maintain a record of misery and promote the history of suffering to their subjects. In many traditional Christian churches, anguish and pain are the visual messages upon entering. This is an ancient form of emotional and visual control, but a brutal model.

Source: Smarthistory

One of the medieval church’s many missions was a medical one.

The Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald was designed to provide aid to those suffering from the bubonic plague and St. Anthony’s fire.

The triptych would be closed for most of the year and ceremonially opened at specific times for healing purposes.

Part 3

Grünewald’s work as inspiration for The Alterpiece

Grünewald’s imagery dealt with the past – stories from the past, stories on which the church was built, the church’s past – and connected it with the technology of the medical order of St. Anthony.

With that in mind, both Alterpieces are about technology – the technology with which the state kills citizens, the technology that measures life and death in a hospital.

There’s a kind of rawness to the paintings of Matthias Grünewald in his crucifixions, almost primitive in their spareness.

The Alterpiece transposes the crucifixion into our times.

Part 4

Observations

This piece has a function as yet unknown.

4a

Common themes

Street justice, murder by the state, punishment and vengeance, fear and cruelty are all at issue in both works.

Both Alterpieces are almost cartoons with exaggerated limbs and expressions that carry a story to a dangerous place where energy transfer can occur.

4b

Eye movement

On the same eye level are the central disc, the televangelist, the doctor / coroner. The eyes do not stop working when watching the two paintings as they sit together.

The eye does not rest or get stuck anywhere, all parts are of interest when The Alterpiece is closed. The eye goes right to the central disc and keeps going back to it when my Alterpiece is open.

4c

Closed vs open

Concealed versus revealed.

When closed, the message is societal misery. When open, the message is light and release. Seeing the piece open changes the viewer’s perception or understanding of the two movable outer paintings.

4d

Down to the details

The viewing room is sterile. The medical room is sterile. Emotions vary on each face all doing different jobs. The camera woman comes from Channel 666.

The execution chair has electrified cones above the hands that will burn through them much like stigmata. There is a tear on the shirt of the victim just below the rib cage on the left.

4e

A strange dynamic

The relationship between the two paintings is a bit tense and difficult, and that’s a good thing. The execution scene offers a straight-on approach and is locked into the earthly.

The right panel has a view from above. This  view from above means that the spirit of the victim has left his body. There is a post-mortem going on.

Part 5

The Structure

The piece is made of wood, canvas and metal.

The dimensions – inclusive of the base and the walnut oval are – 80 inches (203 cm) high, 76 inches (193 cm) wide, 24 inches (61 cm) deep. 

The piece is made of wood, canvas and metal.

The dimensions – inclusive of the base and the walnut oval are – 80 inches (203 cm) high, 76 inches (193 cm) wide, 24 inches (61 cm) deep. 

The central disc

The disc is framed by an inset circle of white ash. The disc is placed at an average eye level height of 63 inches (160 cm) from the floor. The disc is made of metal. The image on it is baked enamel.

The central disc

The disc is framed by an inset circle of white ash. The disc is placed at an average eye level height of 63 inches (160 cm) from the floor. The disc is made of metal. The image on it is baked enamel.

The artwork timelines

Both paintings were made in Saratoga Springs. The electrocution in 1987, the morgue painting in 1985. The porcelain enamel image of the Resurrection on the steel disc was accomplished by KVO Industries of Santa Rosa California in early 2021.

The artwork timelines

Both paintings were made in Saratoga Springs. The electrocution in 1987, the morgue painting in 1985. The porcelain enamel image of the Resurrection on the steel disc was accomplished by KVO Industries of Santa Rosa California in early 2021.

The stand

The structure is composed of black walnut and white ash. It was designed by Mark Rucker in consultation with Mike Newitt, who executed the design. He lives in West Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.

Mike Newitt split the black walnut planks, so that when placed side by side a mirror image of the grain appears. He also devised the structure of the base using two different woods. He cut the perfect oval.

Though the structure is essentially a stand, I did not want it to look like post. Instead, the design seeks to make the oval appear to be floating. The curved lower pieces make that happen.

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