Keene exhibit

Photographer Mark Hogancamp channels trauma into battlefield artistry

September 19. 2018 12:43PM
This detail image is from photographer Mark Hogancamp’s “Marwencol” series, in which he crafts a miniature World War II-era realm that conjures senses of love, loss, loyalty and conflict. “Marwencol” has been depicted in a picture book, documented in film and shown in galleries. (Courtesy of One Mile Gallery)

KEENE — After nine days in a coma from a brutal attack outside a New York bar, Mark Hogancamp woke to find his memories of adulthood had been ripped from his brain.

The trauma from a beating by five men left him reeling physically and emotionally. Struggling for footing, he sought refuge in an unlikely place — a world he called “Marwencol.”

Hogancamp has publicly channeled his recovery into his art. He creates (and recreates) scenarios using 1/16th-scale figures in miniature settings that speak of conflict, loyalty, love and loss. The surprisingly captivating scenes, captured in photographs, suggest aspects of war, gender and empire.

Along the way, “Marwencol” has set up camp in art museums, a documentary by Jeff Malmberg, and a color story book by Hogancamp and producer Chris Shellen.

The Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College next shares images of that conjured world with “Mark Hogancamp: Women of Marwencol and Other Possible Histories.” A reception will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the gallery, 229 Main St., and the exhibit will remain on view through Dec. 6. (For more information, call 358-2720 or visit keeneedu/tsag.)

Hogancamp’s narrative fill in the gaps with sharp bits of fantasy and fiction.

“Marwencol lies in an in-between zone — between binary terms such as male/female, good/bad, Axis/Allies, war/peace, real/imagined — that, over the past 10 years has just become more and more pertinent to our ever-more-complicated, shades-of-gray, perspective-is-all world,” said Thorne-Sagendorph Gallery Director Brian Wall.

Wall was curator at the Dorsky Museum at the State University of New York at New Paltz when he met Hogancamp in 2006.

“The first few meetings lasted hours and hours as he showed me envelope after envelope of old-school photo prints from a basic 35 mm camera and told me the web of stories that make up his world,” Wallace said of putting together an show titled “Intimacies of Distant War. “I included several episodes, so to speak, of his work (about 40 photos overall) in a group show that sought to show artists’ views on the domestic implications of far-off conflicts.

Flash-forward to 2018, and Wallace is gratified to be sharing more of Hogancamp’s work and vision once again.

“Mark is far more technically proficient than when he started, but what artist isn’t? He is still pushing in new directions. One set of works in the Thorne exhibition includes text right in the images, making explicit the comic-book aspect of the work. Another set are 5 feet wide and truly epic, hinting at the cinematic sweep of his visual imagination and suggesting another probable source — movies — for some of his narrative ideas – and still spinning the story of his own life in more intricate ways.”

In a related Monadnock Region program, a screening of “Marwecol,” director Jeff Maimberg’s award-winning 2010 documentary about Hogancamp, is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, at the Colonial Theatre, 95 Main St.


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