Tragedy has a way of prompting spontaneous creativity. Local self-taught artist Mark Peria was grief stricken upon learning that his musical hero, David Bowie, had died January 10th following an 18-month battle with cancer. In an effort to cope, the graphic designer took stylus to tablet and began digitally sketching ideas for the 24” x 36” marker vellum portrait which is currently featured in the storefront window of Annapolis’ 45 West Pop Up Gallery.
The pop up gallery is the collaborative effort of Annapolis artists Peria, Charles Lawrance, Stewart Weiss, Jimi Davies, and Alison Harbaugh. “There’s an art renaissance going on right now. This town needed something like this. There’s just nothing else like it,” said Lawrance, owner of Finnapolis Art Gallery. He said the gallery’s unexpectedly long run will come to an end in mid-March.
“I stayed up all night sketching and just listening to Bowie’s music,” said the 29-year-old graphic designer. Peria creates many of his illustrations from photographs and the concept for his final design was the result of an online image search. “This one picture just struck me. With his hand up to his face and a single finger to his mouth, it was just such an interesting composition. It reminded me of the line ‘Shhhh – just you shut your mouth,’ from [his 1983 hit] ‘China Girl’.”
He completed the piece in five hours over the course of three days and originally titled it “Bowie.” He and fellow artists arrived at the secondary title, “Oh Baby Just You Shut Your Mouth,” after a night of listening to Bowie’s music at the gallery. On a metaphysical level, one could argue Bowie’s posthumously gesturing his mourners to quiet down.
The original black and white image was part of a series taken July 1995 in London by German-based photographer Gavin Evans. His website features 21 additional shots. The universal hand gesture to quiet down was one of “many ideas we played around with – putting him next to himself shouting,” said Evans.
Public reception was immediate. “Since it’s been up there it’s turned a lot of heads and brought people into the gallery,” said Lawrance. “Music lovers are happy that Annapolis artists are showing they care about Bowie.” Lawrance commended Peria and the portrait. “I just feel that it was an immediate gut reaction out of love for Bowie. When you get inspired, you get inspired.”
Peria often works with this vibrant color palette and achieved a soft, watercolor-like effect by using a wet brush over marker. He personally prints each piece using his own archival dye printer. There are two 11” x 17” prints for sale: translucent vellum at $50 and Bristol paper at $35. There are 25 limited edition prints that are 24” x 36” priced at $300.
Thirty percent of each sale will go directly to The Cancer Research Institute. Peria emphasized that he didn’t want to completely profit off this art piece. He chose that nonprofit specifically because a significant portion of the proceeds goes directly to research instead of administrative and overhead costs. The gallery will honor direct donations to this or other charities with a free Bristol print.
Gallery hours are 5 to 11 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 11 p.m. on weekends. Live music acts occasionally perform Wednesday through Friday.