Driven to Abstraction


For painter Mark Emerson, art is a lot of things. But it definitely isn’t optional.

“I make paintings because it’s what I do—it’s my practice,” says Emerson, whose exhibition of geometric abstraction paintings on panel are on display at JayJay gallery this month alongside CSU Stanislaus professor Dean DeCocker’s wall sculpture. “I have no choice as an artist. I have to make art.”

Emerson describes his style in many ways, from musical—“My work is about rhythm, akin to the development of music of the symphonic variety with the counterpoint of jazz”—to architectural—“My designs are often based on the square grid or the rectangle that is the basis for the written word and architecture”—and even like the game of golf—“Sometimes you tee off and drive one; other times you’re in the woods.”

Metaphors aside, what sets this East Sac native’s art apart is its striking patterning and vibrant colors. Emerson starts with watercolor sketches—often done during downtime in classes he teaches at Sierra and Sacramento City colleges—and then he translates a composition that he particularly likes into a larger-scale work. (Some of these sketches will be on display at JayJay.)

“I always tell my students that every time we make something, we make something different,” Emerson says. “You can’t control the process, which is why we keep going back to it. We can’t help it.”

Emerson’s work is on display at JayJay (5524 B Elvas Ave.) through the end of the month. For more information, visit