ReDouble Interviews Photographer Mark Sink

Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your background?

My name is Mark Sink. I am a photographer, curator, teacher and art activist. I grew up in Denver in a artistic house hold. My mother was an abstract painter and dad, a modernist architect.  I was a bit of a troubled youth… very wild and in trouble a lot. I am dyslexic so I was always struggling and was behind in school. But I always had art and music teachers who believed in me and inspired me. After high school, I taught skiing in the winters and worked as a arborist cutting trees. In the summer, I would run off on wilderness expeditions. I also started to get serious racing bicycles around that time. After a few years, I decided it would be best to put myself through college down at the Auraria campus. That’s around when I started making and selling art… it came easy to me. Then, while at a bike race in Ft. Collins I met Andy Warhol. I soon started hanging out with him in NYC at the Factory and getting involved with many in the art community there. I soon left school and packed up my Honda Civic and moved out there.

In the beginning in NYC, I shot lots of commercial work, but soon found  that I could make my own work and get shows. I shot art work for artists and galleries for a modest living. That was a very exciting time. Soon after, Andy died and I was broke all the time. Refusing to go back to commercial work, Denver started to look better and better every visit. I came back more and more and finally stayed in 1992. Broke and in debt, somehow I bought a super cheap old house in a burnt out “stop-and-stab” ghetto neighborhood of the lower Highlands. I immediately formed a group of artists  called “The Denver Salon.” We met in my living room once a month.  Power in numbers, It took off with shows in NYC and museums.

We formed a amazing group in the early nineties called FAB ” the Fine Art Board”. I curated a show for the group at Robin Rule’s; the show was called “Off The Highway.”  The Wall Street Journal wrote it up as the ” The First Internet Art Show”.  A book was recently published telling the FAB story.  I am still very close today of many members of that crew.  In fact, one FAB pal invited my wife and I to be in a museum show in Japan in Sept 2013.

In the early nineties I was asked to be the head of a big community garden in my neighborhood. That is where I met Marina Graves, who with myself, were co-founders to the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. Our first board meetings were in my back yard. My little house went up in value so I bought and restored a beat up building down the street and started a photography gallery called Gallery Sink; it ran for about ten years. I was borrowing against the building to support the gallery shows till it reached a tipping point. I look back in amazement of how a bank would lend a quarter million to a artist without any verifiable income.  In 2007, I sold it a month before the markets crashed. Now I privately consult, independently curate, deal photography, and organize the Big Picture and MoP (Month of Photography). My main focus is back on my own work again. I am excited to be a new resident artist at RedLine for 2013-15 class.

Can you tell us the story of how The Big Picture exhibition came to fruition?

When inkjet big printers were hitting stride in the mid 1990s I was very interested in projects that put the large images out on the streets. A mentor and friend that runs the Houston FotoFest, Fred Chance, once mentioned he wanted to do a ” mile walk of photography.” That really stuck with me; I wanted to do that. Then one day a NY photographer and friend, Tammera Gallegos, came into my studio and wheat pasted images on my bathroom door. That’s around when I focused more on the whole street art world of wheat pasting process. I had been stirring up Denver galleries and museums to do a month of photography “MoP”  since 2004. So in 2011 I teamed up with Adam Gildar of Gildar Gallery, formerly known as Illiterate Gallery, to produce the Big Picture during MoP. He did a great job. Through many online channels I had been amassing amazing talent and new art photographer friends worldwide. The Big Picture was a perfect opportunity to include all my friends and Denver community to  paste our work in over 53 cities around the world. Here is a link of the book that was published.

The project garners images from and support from not only local photographers, but individuals from all across the world. Could you tell us about the decision to not just include yourself, but the world as a whole?

My life as a curator has always been pulling interesting talent together and putting it together into a exhibition. It started in the halls at Metro and galleries. For instance, I came across a mail art book once in the early eighties. It was a project where artists from around the world would submit a proposed page. If accepted they would send a edition of 150 or so to be collated into the hand made book project. I decided to do this myself and created “The Codex.” It was an art show in a book with removable pages. Printed Matter carried them, as well as Franklin Furnace NYC,  MoMA NY and Denver Art Museum.

Community activism and power in numbers are key words that run my world. If your pure to it first and not for self gain first, great things happen. Thinking back, all my biggest successes are from gathering a community together first and your work being discovered second.  Throughout history, artists have always made it into the spot light from being a part of a group first.

Could you briefly describe what you were trying to achieve with the exhibition?

Turning a shitty dead wall or alley into a beautiful public exhibition space is very rewarding at many levels.  Nothing better than seeing families and children, from all walks of life, excited to see the public artwork that brings the world closer together through photography.

Could you give us a little insight on the process for taking an image, that originated from another country, from 1s and 0’s to public art exhibited on the Denver streets.

There is a great beauty in the simplicity.  It’s amazing how you can send a high resolution b&w image via email and bring it to your local copy shop that has a large format architectural printer (plotter). They are made to print high volume building plans. Xerox is a carbon process so the image is very stable for years in direct light. Here’s a link for details of how to make prints and paste.

It’s very pure and direct. I am very interested in the immediate outreach power of the Internet and the amazing possibilities with the ease of sending images around the globe. images have great power. Mix that with curated talent, and together with a cheap, easy, fast and quality output, it’s a dream come true.

Stylistically how would you describe The Big Picture?

This show of grand scale contemporary photography exposes the possibility of images as art via email instantly exchanged globally and blown up to large mural proportions. Images gathered from photographers around the world will be expanded as large Xerox prints and displayed inside galleries as well as posted in approved outdoor locations throughout the city of Denver and sister cities around the globe.

You are known for developing stunning images using the wet plate process. What influenced you to integrate the process into street art and how did you approach the visual aesthetics when combining the two?  

I have always been crazy in love with doing portraits with Polaroid. It’s pure, honest, instant and a peoples’ medium. Wet plate is a similar instant process. Like Polaroid, each is one-of-a-kind. Most of my life, I have been a portrait photographer. Big portraits are a lovely match. Placing portraits into the streets is fun for me, and more so seeing people respond with great delight.