Mark Chamberlain is a fine art photographer, environmental and assemblage artist. He owns BC Space Gallery, Laguna Beach, exhibiting photography, visual and installation art, musical and theatrical performances. In this 2,400 square foot gallery, he has curated many shows that address the preservation of our natural environment.
Dubuque Passages and Future Fossils
Mark Chamberlain explains, “My first major body of work, after returning from the military in 1969, was Dubuque Passages, 1972 to 1976, photos of family, friends and the Mississippi River in my hometown, Dubuque, Iowa." In the mid seventies, he shifted his camera's focus to the California urban landscape, and to his adopted home, Laguna Beach. “I changed to a larger format camera, added color to the palette, and began a new series titled Future Fossils (Lip Service from this series is above), steel and glass structures with the energetic colors, in the glossy billboards advertising the new age, dominated the western landscape. They seemed almost super realistic to me, and the newly minted Cibachrome print material allowed me to convey these impressions."
Art writer Peter Clothier wrote in the Huffington Post: "His pictures seek passionately to preserve momentary events before they are gone, to mark the occasion of their passing, or sometimes to draw attention to their transition as they wither and die. He brings his meticulous craftsmanship to the creation of images that convey that reality in its smallest, most intimate detail. In his assemblage work, that same fascination with the mystery and temporality of objects leads him to extricate them from their original, mostly superannuated context, and invent for them a new, often whimsical new life in art."
Mark Chamberlain and Jerry Burchfield (now deceased) opened BC Space in 1973. In that initial 1,000-square-foot space, they shot and processed film for commercial clients, but soon focused on shooting and printing for other galleries, museums, and artists. They also presented photography exhibitions, many infused with political, social and environmental messages. Mark Chamberlain assumed sole ownership of BC Space in the late 80's, expanding the gallery's perspectives, adding visual and performance media.
He says, “The gallery is supported primarily by the Photographic Art Services. With over 35 years experience in photographing and printing two and three dimensional work of all styles, sizes and mediums, sculpture and jewelry, and even kinetic work, we understand the exacting demands of galleries, museums, and individual artists in reproducing their work.”
Mark Chamberlain and Jerry Burchfield created The Tell photomural, assisted by numerous volunteers, in 1989. (The Tell was phase VIII of their “Laguna Canyon Project” 1980-2010, documenting changes of Laguna Canyon over time.) The Tell, an environmental artwork addressing encroaching urban development of the bucolic Laguna Canyon, was a small mountain, 636 feet long and 36 feet high, dwindling down to the ground; it was composed of hundreds of thousands of family and personal photographs, donated by people from across the country and the world. The word "Tell" comes from the archeological term for a mound of artifacts from prior civilizations, buried over by natural elements. A Tell was cited in James Michener's best-selling 1965 book, The Source, dealing with the evolution of civilization.
The Laguna Canyon Project was the subject of an exhibition, The Canyon Project: Artivism, held at Laguna Art Museum, October 18, 2015 through January 17, 2016.
The Legacy Project
In 2002, Chamberlain, Burchfield and four other photographers, created “The “Legacy Photo Project” to document the evolution of the Orange County Great Park over the next decade. In July 2006, “The Legacy Photo Project “created The Great Picture, the world's largest photograph—3 stories high by 11 stories wide. In 2007, Guinness World Records certified the Project's Camera Obscura as the largest ever recorded. The Great Picture has been exhibited in four venues, will be in the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum though most of 2014, and has been featured in several hundred publications.
The Festival of Arts
An exhibit on The Tell was displayed at the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts in 2010. From the narrative accompanying the display: "In 1990, while Green Initiatives were failing at polls across the country (largely because of the economic slump of that time) Laguna Beach was a shining exception with an 80% majority of its voters agreeing to tax themselves to buy the land for preservation. The philosophical and physical foundation of The Tell was a female figure echoing the silhouette of the surrounding hillsides when viewed from the field in front of the mural. The head itself was stylized slightly to resemble those of the giant Easter Island Moai. The stories created by what ultimately grew into over a hundred thousand collaged photographs spoke of the lives and history of successive inhabitants of this region in the early stages; but later faded to reveal other messages about humankind’s relationship with the land. These more enduring tales (comprised of longer lived photo material) emerged on the chakra points of the larger body of the mural."
Arts Orange County California presented a 2014 Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award to Mark Chamberlain as “Artistic Visionary,” on October 22, 2014 at the Samueli Theater, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa, California. For more information, go to Arts Orange County.