Saturday, December 12, 2015

Meet Mark Seabrook

For some time now I have been wanting to introduce one of our most colourful Manitoulin Island artists, Mark Seabrook, who along with his wife, Michelle Hrynyk, graciously opened up a sector of their ample property in Tehkummah for our Sorraia Mustang mares.

Outside the Ravenseyrie Studio & Art Gallery, Mark Seabrook stands next to
one of his magnificent paintings on display in the hallway of
the Gore Bay Harbour Centre

In my journal entry titled, A New Phase of Conservation for Ravenseyrie, I wrote in detail about our decision to suspend breeding and the need to separate males from females.   Making that decision was difficult but has enabled us to keep all our remaining offspring as part of our continued preservation of the Sorraia and Sorraia Mustang horses, removing the pressure to sell horses into less than ideal situations.  Relocating the mares to a completely different range made it possible for us to leave Ravenseyrie a wide open landscape with fencing only on the parameter of the preserve rather than chopping it up with the type of fences capable of keeping "wild" stallions from accessing "wild" mares when the tempting aromas of estrus raise amorous testosterone to feverish levels.

A priceless photo, from the glory days when Sorraia stallion, Altamiro, first pursued the
affection of Ciente (Kiger Mustang of Sorraia type) in the early years of
the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve
photo:  Leslie Town Photography

While looking for suitable range land that could sustain wild-living equines, we were fortunate to be introduced to Mark and Michelle by the project coordinator of Manitoulin Streams.  Having purchased the many-years-fallow farmland along the Manitou River, Mark and Michelle were exploring ways to "use" the acreage that would keep the grasslands from being overtaken by scrub brush and forest - something that had already begun to occur.  It appealed to Mark's love of the untamed wilderness to imagine wild horses living on that land, integrating with it, not subduing it like field crops would, yet keeping it from returning to a tangled forest.  A perfect fit for what we had in mind!  Mark and Michelle are a very "forward thinking" couple and immediately understood that by opening up their land to our mares, they were setting a standard in our part of the world that has already been widely embraced in Europe -- using large herbivores to assure grassland habitats that have become essential to the survival of an amazing number of plants, birds and small mammals are not lost when old family farms are no longer being used for agricultural pursuits.

Ravenseyrie mares living well on the wilderness sector of
Mark Seabrook's property
Tehkumaah, Manitoulin Island

In the nearly two and a half years that our mares have been living on the Twinravens range, it has been wonderful to get to know Mark and Michelle better and share in each others lives.  What a pity, though, that Twinravens is an hour's drive away from Ravenseyrie, or I would be able to interact with the mares and Mark and Michelle more frequently than my weekly Mare Monday visits.

For much of the year, the Twinravens range supports all the needs of the mares and they live self-maintained.  While Kevin and I continue to make sure the range is safe and secure for the mares and sufficiently stocked with extra forage to see them through the long island winters, it is a comfort to know that Mark and Michelle keep a look out for them to alert us should there be some need arising requiring human intervention.  I gave Mark a pair of field glasses and he makes good use of them monitoring the mares from a distance, while Michelle (who feels a bit more comfortable around horses) likes to now and then walk out onto the mares' range and enjoy the wonderful trails their hooves have made through the different sectors.

Sometimes Mark comes to visit with me at my Ravenseyrie Studio and Art Gallery located in the Gore Bay Harbour Centre.  Those visits are always filled with mutual appreciation, discussions of art and music and how poetic life on the island is.  Mark is a very humble man and through our many discussions he never told me that just a few months before we put our mares on his property, a film crew came out to Twinravens to make a documentary of him and his work.  It was by chance that I stumbled upon it during some online research.

A screenshot of the webpage hosting the Mark Seabrook documentary

The documentary is titled, Mark Seabrook / The Spirit Within and while I am not seeing a way to embed that video directly into the blog, you can click on the title and it will take you to the webpage where you can view it.

Three of the Mark Seabrook paintings from this author's personal collection

I am definitely a groupie when it comes to Mark's work and have several of his paintings on display over my checkout counter at work with a sign directing people to the multidimensional Whytes gallery across the hall from mine where some of these captivating paintings can be purchased.

If you watched the documentary, you know that Mark Seabrook is well trained in the "Woodland Style" of First Nations painting and obviously adept at putting his own "essence" into traditional Native American motifs.  As much as I admire those "Woodland Style" paintings, Mark's more exploratory works are the ones I get weak in the knees over.  Mark's love of abstract and modern art, specifically the work of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko serve as inspirational influences as he explores integrating his overwhelming affection for Nature and occasional appetite for more urban sensations.

As it happened, on one of my Monday visits with our mares, Mark was at home, and working up some of his small canvas board acrylic "sketches".  He had already painted his backgrounds and was now in the process of layering on heavier pigments in a manner adapted from Jackson Pollock's "drip" technique.  I'd been waiting for such an opportunity to photograph Mark "in action" (the technique he uses is quite an athletic workout!) and he was generous enough to let me document some of that day's efforts before I took my picnic lunch out to check in with the mares on the range adjacent to where Mark's "Art Bridge" is.  With Mark's permission, I am able to share some of those "paintings in progress" with you:

The artist, Mark Seabrook

Two "in process" paintings by Mark Seabrook

Once dry, Mark returns to ponder over these small canvas boards and lets the painting itself tell him what to add next.  Here is a finished piece of one Mark did earlier in the summer and which is now in my personal collection:

Untitled acrylic painting by Mark Seabrook, summer 2015

Captivating, don't you think!  A mythic story unfolding before our eyes!

Now that you've had opportunity to experience some of the evocative paintings of Mark Seabrook, perhaps you are, like me, anticipating the day when the forms of those Ravenseyrie mares that Mark so loves to see (and hear) galloping over his beloved Twinravens landscape show up in equally compelling artworks.  Mark is not as familiar with the forms of horses as he is those of birds and bear and fish...but he is observing and practicing and one day we are sure to see something come of this!

The lovely Sorraia Mustang mare, Esperanda (Altamiro x Ciente)
perhaps one day Mark Seabrook will immortalize her in a painting

Before ending this journal entry, I want to also tip readers off to some of the fantastic music Mark was making in the 1990's with the aboriginal band, No Reservations, (which was featured in the documentary on Mark).  Here is a link to one super track that Mark has a good guitar solo on, More Than I Can Say.

And a bit of live video:

This group should have gone places!  They had all the right "stuff" if you ask me.  But as it happens in so many bands, internal conflicts and deleterious use of creative energies facilitated its eventual breaking up.  Their last album, Hollywood Indian  (my favourite song on this one is "Civilized Man") still has some limited copies available which can be purchased through Whytes gallery.

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