Edinburg art gallery features work of Holocaust survivor
The Shenandoah Valley-Herald
EDINBURG – In a large yellow house on Edinburg’s Main Street, Poland-born artist Mark Strauss made his studio and a small gallery.
The Edinburg Gallery features the works of about 15 artists, including many by Strauss himself.
Strauss works with oil paints and uses no easel, preferring to paint on a flat canvas.
The method is “unusual for an artist,” said Strauss, demonstrating his technique of positioning a small board on risers above the canvas to lean on with his left arm as he paints with his right from directly atop.
“The benefit is I have absolute control of the brush,” he said.
The method also allows for greater range of pressure that he uses to create a different looks with his brush strokes.
Strauss eschews palettes also, opting for the pure pigment straight from the tube. He mixes the colors as he paints them together.
“Every time you mix two colors together there is a graying or blackening effect,” he said. “Sometimes you want that, but sometimes no.”
A Holocaust survivor, Strauss’s time in Poland during the German occupation makes its way into some of his art.
Strauss lived in Poland during the German occupation in the 1940s.
He moved to the U.S. as a teenager, but memories from his time in Poland appear in several of his pieces, including one called “Babi Yar,” he painted as a tribute to a massacre that occurred in a ravine of the same name in 1941.
Strauss’s piece shows a scene full of bleeding children’s toys, lying throughout the scene as if they were bodies.
Another painting, “Oh Beautiful!,” recalls the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Amidst a swirling landscape, the American flag appears at half-mast.
“It is a majestic American landscape, but if you look closely certain things are disrupted,” Strauss said.
Segments of the stream don’t connect, trees bend to the side and brush strokes come from all directions to create a look of subdued chaos.
Strauss also paints lots of landscapes, using long brush strokes to create expressive trees, flowers and flowing water.
He also likes to experiment.
In one piece, he made deep, diagonal strokes across the entire canvas while the paint was still wet, to create the look of rain.
Strauss also does paintings on commission, and several of these sports-themed works can be seen at his gallery.
When he was 16 years old, Strauss emigrated to the U.S., living first in New Jersey. He earned a doctorate in physical chemistry and moved to DC to work for the federal government and eventually taught at Georgetown.
He stumbled upon art later in life as a way to satisfy a “need to be creative.”
Strauss said he used to bring a yellow legal pad and draw sketches during faculty meetings.
“My doodles were very successful,” he said. “People would ask if they could have them.”
He started painting full time after he retired. Strauss spent 20 summers selling his art and doing painting demonstrations on the National Mall in DC.
He has owned the gallery in Edinburg for 15 years, and lives about ten miles outside of town.
Two of his pieces appeared in the Edinburg Mill Art Show and sale on Oct. 6 and 7. The show featured the work of over 50 artists in the area. Proceeds from the annual event benefit the Edinburg Mill Museum.
Strauss’s work can also be seen at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC.