The Space Between: The Wild and the Domestic

BY EMILY CHAPMAN

Drawn lines are carved into blocks of wood. Wood blocks are covered with black ink and pressed into paper over and over, forming the figures of horses ready to run off the page.

From October 5 to November 6, the artwork of Mark Ritchie, artist and professor from the University of Wyoming, will be shown in the Marian Art Gallery on campus. This body of his work deals with themes of wildness and domestication.


“I think, with this body of work, it’s my experience coming to horsemanship later in life and thinking about this animal, that’s [a] prey animal, is allowing me, predator…to work with him,” Ritchie said. “How we negotiate those boundaries between wild and domestic. How he and I are negotiating those boundaries.”

He believes that this relationship between feral and domestic extends to humans.

“Our human nature that is both feral and somehow domesticated, controlled, programmed, is part of the thinking that is happening in the studio,” Ritchie said. “The imagery is specifically about the horse relationship.”

Ritchie had a mustang named Domingo until this past March when he lost him suddenly. Now, he is working with a more domesticated horse named Beryl. After working with both horses, he can see the differences between the personalities of wild and domestic horses.

“Horses have a fight or flight instinct and they tend to choose the path of least resistance, to run away,” Ritchie said. “The wild horses, the feral horses, it tends to be much stronger, their sense of running is greater. I am feeling that with the new horse and the old horse. This body of work bridges those two horses in my life as well.”

Ritchie grew up in a blue collar, farming family. When he started out as an undergraduate at Kansas University, he studied medical illustration. He hated caliber lab class, but liked his drawing and printmaking classes. This caused him to realize that medical illustration was not the career for him.

“That was the semester that I had to trust my heart,” Ritchie said. “I went to my advisor and said, ‘I’m going to do this thing where I am not going to be an illustration major anymore. Will I die? Will I not be able to eat?’ And she said ‘what is your worst possible job?’ I’ said, ‘garbage man’…And she said you’ll be fine and you won’t be a garbage man.’”

For him, the idea of paper being affordable and accessible is what makes printmaking most attractive to him.

“As an artist, it means that you get to try lots of options,” Ritchie said. “You can print one like that and if you go around the corner, I have taken the same block and printed it with other blocks to create new things.”

Ritchie does not have the goal of seeing his work in the big name galleries. Instead, his goal is for his work to continue to mean something.

“It’s rather a goal for my work to continue to have integrity and be accessible and available to people and for me to continue having a valuable discussion in the studio,” Ritchie said. “So I think in my life as a teacher, as an artist, it’s figuring out how to keep that moving forward.”

Before the opening reception of the gallery, Ritchie gave a lecture and demonstration to the Mount Mary University students taking printmaking this semester. He said he enjoys teaching because he believes printmaking is a communal activity.

“I enjoy being in the studio and making art, but also the act of sharing that work with others,” Ritchie said. “And certainly you’re sharing more than just your own work. You’re sharing sort of the best practices when you’re working with students.”

This semester, Alicia Gauden, a junior majoring in art education, is taking printmaking. She found the lecture Ritchie gave to her class informative and enjoyable.

“I actually got to know who he is, where he comes from, what kind of artwork [he does],” Gauden said. “Then he gave us a demonstration. That was really cool because we hadn’t used the print press yet in our class because we were just starting out the year. He showed us how to do all of these little cool things…how to use the printer not just to make one print, but also how to layer it and put all these different things on the same piece of paper.”

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Ritchie encourages students to believe in their work.

“Nobody cares whether you make art or not,” Ritchie said. “It really is up to you to believe in your art, to believe in what you want to say and what you want to do, enough to continue to do it.”

Marian Art Gallery Hours:
Monday through Friday: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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