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'Real' art

By KATHY MCCANN

April 2005

Bay View artist Mark Sijan specializes in ultra-realistic sculpture.


Many people react to artist Mark Sijan’s lifelike sculptures with confusion — some can’t believe they’re not real. Some viewers just enjoy being able to study the human body. "It’s not often we’re able to stare at someone that long," says Sijan. "Maybe if you’re standing behind someone in an elevator or your spouse or children ..."

Audiences across the country have had the opportunity to gawk at Sijan’s people at solo shows in galleries and museums across the country. Soon, they’ll embark on a European tour.

The Bay View native counts "the godfather" of realistic sculpture Duane Hanson, who later became a mentor and friend to Sijan, John DeAndrea and, of course, Michelangelo and Rodin, among his influences.

His subjects are ordinary people in the Norman Rockwell sense, and he’s always looking for inspiration to strike: a guy on a bus or even his father (who he made into a security guard that is now displayed in the Midwest Express Center).

"Chicago Floyd — I saw him at a show and I said, ‘Boy you’d be great.’"

Don Lando, a heavyset friend, was speechless when he saw Sijan’s rendering of him, naked except a tiny Speedo. The next day he saw a doctor to lose weight.

"He had fun at an exhibit later on, standing next to himself like a before and after."

The artmaking process includes casting and assembling the resin work, and then painting up to 15 thin coats of oils to make the skin translucent, even using tiny brushes and a magnifying glass to apply the pores and blemishes. It takes about six months to complete one piece.

"It’s so meticulous and exacting. I sometimes wish I had been an Abstract Expressionist, which I do as a hobby."

Although his works are nothing like frenetic deKooning canvases, Sijan’s figures do seem eerily on the verge of movement.