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The Art of Markus Pierson

“I looked a Coyote right in the face, on the road to Baljennie near my old home town . . . he had those same eyes – just like yours, under your dark glasses” – Joni Mitchell, “Coyote”

by Julianna Arnim

For twenty years, Markus Pierson has painted and sculpted a series of subjects he playfully calls “dogs in suits.” His coyote series has garnered both critical acclaim and vast popularity across the world throughout its two-decade evolution. Pierson, who began painting after a brush with death in the mid-eighties, was inspired by the Joni Mitchell song “Coyote,” which led him to adopt these “dogs in suits” as spokespeople for the ebb and flow of the human condition.

Barely making ends meet as a billboard artist in 1986, Pierson unwittingly reached a turning point in his artistic career. Pierson says of this time:

I was so poor, in fact, that I couldn’t even afford a shower curtain to serve as a wedding present for two good friends who were getting married in the Southwest. I figured they might like one of my coyote drawings so I did a romantic one and took it there – the people at the wedding went nuts! Well, you know how these things go – somebody knew somebody who knew somebody in the art business, and within a year my art was being sold in over a hundred art galleries across the country.

A unique genre of work was born, and Pierson’s coyotes won the hearts of an ever-growing audience.

What makes Pierson’s coyotes such successful subjects is his ability to craft them as utterly human in terms of emotional range; through their plights and celebrations, loves and losses, the artist paints a panoply of images that laud life for exactly what it is. Pierson remarks that his favorite thing about the coyotes is that “They celebrate life.” He elaborates, “Sometimes life kicks them around, but they embrace it just the same. Heartaches, bad breaks, job problems, job triumphs, true love, rotten luck, vast fortune. Good or bad, they celebrate. I like that.” This sense of embodying and exonerating life with all its sorrows and exaltations is Pierson’s underlying signature.

No matter what the context, the coyotes share certain qualities imbued with Pierson’s personal iconography. Among these symbols are the coyotes’ sunglasses, which protect their anonymity and disallow viewers to see clearly into their souls; blue coyotes, whose hearts have been broken; big hands, which express emotions; and lilies, the icons of love.

In Sweet Intoxication, the coyote relaxing in his rose-colored chair sits calmly grasping a glass of red wine while his flowing tie – Pierson’s symbol of the free spirit – rests lazily over the chair’s arm, intimating that his spirit is somewhat tamed but still intact. The words in the painting, written by Pierson, express the love of a woman who, like the wine, provides solace to the coyote in moments of lassitude.

A Renaissance, which celebrates the ability to regenerate one’s life from the depths of sorrow, also obliquely recognizes women as guiding and supportive forces in man’s (coyote’s) life. Although the focus of the painting is the blue coyote, blindfolded to represent how blind faith will guide him out of life’s pitfalls and into a spiritual rebirth, he is urged towards this renaissance by a barrage of female coyote angels. With their gentle guidance and a willfulness to blindly follow his heart, this coyote is destined for an ultimate reemergence into a better life spun from his own innate wisdom. The moon, which for Pierson symbolizes wisdom, hangs over the entire scene as the source of this realization.

Female coyotes always play strong roles in Pierson’s work. Though they are not meant to overshadow male coyotes, they represent strength, guidance, and support throughout many of the artist’s series. Female coyotes are always taller than male coyotes, which serves a dual function; fundamentally, it creates an artistic visual balance to the stockiness of the males, and symbolically, it represents the equality between men and women. Pierson’s world has been heavily influenced by women, namely his mother, sister and wife. The untimely deaths of his mother and sister are the catalysts for his growth as an artist, and his devotion to his wife influences the emotional subjects of his work.

Pierson’s painting High exemplifies these techniques of female representation and their personal meaning to the artist. Two coyote lovers sit perched in a tree amongst the whimsical words,

TWO COYOTES WE, AS NOVEMBER COMES UPON US, THE HOLIDAYS SOON AFTER, THEN APRIL, SUMMER JUST AROUND THE CORNER, THEN THE LEAVES CHANGE AND HERE WE ARE ONCE AGAIN, TROUBLE LURKS, MY DEAR, OUR FUTURE UNCERTAIN, JUST AS ALWAYS, BUT RIGHT NOW WE TWO SHARE THE SKY, JUST HIGH, SO HIGH.

The message here, so eloquently displayed in poetry and paint, is one of love that lasts through the seasons literally and metaphorically. Throughout the coming years and their trepidations, love remains as strong as ever. The two coyotes, positioned with drollness and wearing coy smiles, are confident that their love, just as it is now, will see them through the undulating moments of joy and sorrow inherent to all coyote-kind.

How is it that Markus Pierson enables us to identify so strongly with his “dogs in suits”? His gift to translate humanity to an animal subject is truly remarkable. As collector Elizabeth Harrison puts it, “[the coyotes] are inspirational. In a strange way [they] are empowering in the way that their fictional lives mirror your own life experiences . . . who other than Markus Pierson can make you relate to a coyote floating around in a dinghy outside Paris waxing poetic about his life’s journey? And not only do you relate, but you are also affected and motivated.”

Pierson’s work is widely collected. His enthusiasts include Oliver Stone, Ozzy Osborne, John Cleese, billionaire Sam Zell, and the American Ambassador to Argentina. This popularity is undoubtedly due to the universal and humanistic appeal of his coyote subjects, who battle and celebrate the same tides of life as do we all.
In his 2005 exhibition Know Limit, Pierson included a statement that plainly yet profoundly articulates why viewers relate so strongly to his subjects. Using the voice of the coyote, he writes:

I AM COYOTE. I AM BLACK, I AM WHITE, I AM TAN, I AM RED, I AM JEWISH, I AM GENTILE. I AM FROM EVERY PLACE I HAVE EVER BEEN OR SEEN OR HEARD OF OR LIGHTLY GRAZED MY HAND ACROSS AS I CARESSED AN ATLAS. I AM YOUR TWIN. I AM GAY, I AM STRAIGHT. I HAVE FELT AND KNOWN DEEPLY EVERY TEMPTATION, BOTH DARK AND LIGHT, AND I HAVE CONCLUDED WHAT YOU HAVE AND THEN, LIKE YOU, WONDERED THE WISDOM OF THAT CONCLUSION. I AM FRIGHTENED, I AM GIDDY, I AM MYSTIFIED, I AM ENLIGHTENED, I AM ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN I AM NOT WHAT OTHERS THINK I AM. I MUCH PREFER HAVING SOMEONE DISAPPOINT ME OVER DISAPPOINTING SOMEONE. I WOULD RATHER HAVE MY HEART BROKEN THAN TO BREAK SOMEONE’S HEART. I’D RATHER HAVE WILL THAN LUCK. I HATE CAPITULATION. I LEARN EVERYTHING THE HARD WAY. I HAVE BEEN UNBELIEVABLY STUPID. I’M HAUNTED. I’M OPTIMISTIC, AND I’M OPEN-MINDED TO A FAULT. I AM RIDDLED WITH FAULTS, BUT I DO TRY. I AM REALIZED BY ONE PARTICULAR PERSON, BUT I AM ACTUALIZED BY EVERY PERSON I’VE EVER MET. YOU HAVE MADE ME, YOU ARE MY REASON FOR BEING, AND I THANK YOU.

After reading this philosophical reflection on what it means to be a coyote in a Pierson work, it becomes impossible not to relate to the transcendent qualities of his fanciful “dogs.”

The artist, however, believes that successful art has nothing to do with subject in particular, and encourages his audiences never to give up on pursuing personal achievements. “For any budding artists out there seeking my advice I would simply say this – never give up, out-work everyone else, and don’t be afraid to take risks,” says Pierson, “I hang on to the elements I believe in and toss the rest, continually developing and growing. In this way I feel I follow the paths of the greats, even if I am painting coyotes in suits. Your vehicle may be the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile – but it doesn’t mean your destination can’t be a great one.”

Click for Art of England Article

LETTER FROM MARKUS


 


She Lingers

Serigraph on paper
35 x 25

The Story Behind the Image

Staying past the sunset, past the end of the evening, on into the night and its’ many mysteries. She is strong, very, and unafraid to face those mysteries. She looks out across her horizon. She has but one wish; for love to rain down upon her, to cover her completely and hold fast, to stay strong over time…and I will. There is no mystery there

 

 

 



Tin Cup

The Story Behind the Image

“A tin cup or a gilded goblet, a hut or a castle, wobbly bicycles or a Bentley; to wherever and by whatever means, my love, our journey is splendid, our cup is full.”

A tin cup can’t help but conjure up another time…a decade defined by hardship. This icon of the Great Depression has been part of our collective conscience for 75 years. Our Coyote lovers cling to each other as they freely toss the frills of their dreams into a tin cup. Together they portray what it means to truly love one another and, therefore, express the values to hold dear in relationships.


Mixed Media Graphic
Image Size: 51.75 " x 26 "
55 Arabic Numbers
5 Artist Proofs

NEW

 

 



A Renaissance

The Story Behind the Image

The caption reads: “A Renaissance, one awaits you, if only you apply the pearls of wisdom you already know. The painting depicts a blue coyote, blindfolded and winged, stepping carefully down a slippery hill, unaware of the proximity of guiding angels. One holds out the pearl, a reminder to trust instincts and apply wisdom as you make the journey. Can you find sure footing? Can you catch yourself if you begin to fall? What do you sense from your environment? A quickening of the spirit as you realize your progress has in turn become, a renaissance.”

Mixed media on board
51" x 25"

 

 



Red Sky Blue Heart


My days, like spent rose petals, escape my grasp and fill my sky. Love remains my unknown sanctuary, thus my long journey continues, wandering apace with my 2 consant conpanions: My red sky and my blue heart

Hand-Pulled Serigraph on Canvas 44” x 21”

 

 



WIND OF CHANGE

The Story Behind the Image

No more waiting for fate to befall me, no. I have my dreamboat, and together we will find our destiny, choose our ladder to the sky.

Mixed media on board
46" x 24"

 



Desert Flower

The Story Behind the Image

Wispy thoughts of white picket fences and scented love letters, comparisons to circus riders and sappy movies, something excruciatingly painful to wait for; this is how her friends saw love. To them, love was like a prize-winning flower poised in a greenhouse – lovely, fragrant, perfect in every regard. They pitied her, for, to them, her romantic life seemed like an empty horizon. Maybe so, but she wasn’t looking for what her friends were. She thought of love not as a greenhouse flower, but as a desert flower’ robust, adaptable, not needy, and tough as hell to kill. She wanted that and only that, or nothing at all. For her, the wait was easy.

Mixed media on board
46" x 24"

 

 



Road Dog

The Story Behind the Image

The story on the painting reads, "Down from the north he came, Pete the Road Dog, misunderstood and resolute, certain in his belief that all the world, every inch of it, called to him. Half Coyote and half Aussie Heeler, no living thing had ever been so utterly determined to live a life wild and free, unfettered and unbound. No Man that met him ever felt friendless again, no coyotess who kissed him ever looked into the sunset the same again for he was all of Life's bold adventures bundled and rolled into a singular hide. As he passed by, lions bowed their heads, road crews broke into song, Ducatis moaned, Ferarris wept, marathoners stopped mid-race to gawk, champion race drivers handed over their keys, boats hugged the closest shore, herds of gazelles stared at his feet, generals saluted, and the Great Nuvolari himself winked a knowing wink. The tires of cars so longed to be with him that they leapt off their cars they were on and mobbed him. Life both went on forever and was over in a flash for the Road Dog: He's gone on now, but his spirit only grows stronger. For any adventure you may choose to go on, wherever it might be and with whomever you may desire as a companion, you can feel the air from the laughter of the spirit of Pete, the Road Dog. It is what makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. Go Pete go! "


Mixed media on board
36" x 60"

 

 



King Maker

The Story Behind the Image

For those who understand the power of the right woman behind her man, Markus offers the King Maker. ‘What would I be without you’ and ‘How lucky am I’ are the questions posed by the artist in this amazing piece.

As a member of the unique Mixed Media Series, the “King Maker” is created through the fidelity of five artistic disciplines in order to achieve the lush surfaces and dimensional components of the work. Included are silkscreen printmaking, digital printmaking, hand-painting, cast resin sculpture and fine carpentry.

Through Markus’s own words, the story is written on painting as follows.

“A sea of admiring eyes, a river of flowering words spoken by would-be suitors, the burden of too much choice – this she must bear. If she had never laid eyes on me her life would still have been rich, for she was born a King Maker. Difficult to impress, disdainful of false praise or modesty, so keenly aware of the heights I could reach if I truly set my mind to it. She is both the storm and the shelter from it, the sentencing judge and the ‘get out of jail free’ card, a stiff kick on my backside and a comforting smile of understanding. A life all on her own or with some other fella would be full and proud, but lucky me – I hold the key, I wear the crown.”

Mixed media on board
35" x 30"


 


Village Idiot (set of 4)

The Story Behind the Image

This Serigraph is four separate images. By placing all four images in a cube, you see the full scope of the painting. Even more interesting is when laying the images out horizontally, it tells the same story, but reveals quite a different painting. What we perceive as clouds suddenly become the ground. It’s really wonderful and unique.

The captions read:

Panel-1) “Without a word spoken, I cast my lost to the vagaries of the sky. They think me a fool, The village Idiot’. But what I sought did not exist on trodden soil. You took wing, and thus, so did I.”

Panel-2) “I encounter other dreamers. They are fearless, and yet they fear for me, for my dream is so uncertain and I chase it without caution. My Dream, you see, is you, my heart yours for the taking… or the breaking.”

Panel-3) “Oh, the height, the sight, the bright white sky light that is you. My faith blind, all-consuming. You seem unattainable, but I know no other way. It is you and I, or I am as the dust that blows.”

Panel-4) “My heart, falling as if dropped from the sky, it’s fate uncertain. I, the town, all wondering the same thing; will you cradle this heart, crown me king? Or am I, indeed, the village idiot. Either way-no regrets, coyote.”

Lithograph on paper
16" x 16" each image

 

 


Know Limit

The Story Behind the Image

This inimitable image entices us to question what we think are life's limits challenges us to push past them, insisting that we strive to reach our potential. The piece reads:

“Like everyone else I was told my future had no limit. While it was true for some, for myself - I knew better. So instead I simply set out to find it. And once I had, to push against it and try my best to move it. More like a bull than an eagle, just stubbornly plodding along. Looking back now, I can't believe what I've done, where I've been. So I say to you these two simple words; not no limit - but KNOW LIMIT.”

Lithograph on paper
29" x 46"

SOLD

 

 


Wheels of Life

The Story Behind the Image

The Wheels of Life is Markus Pierson’s first serigraph to incorporate the artist’s “found-objects”, one of the most sought after elements of Pierson’s original paintings and sculpture.

Here, the weathered gears from a vintage motorcycle form a playful metaphor for our lives. The gears are a reminder that nothing lasts forever and that what was once new will eventually weather. The Wheels of Life is a call to action, a compelling tap on the shoulder to find life’s open road and pursue our dreams. Life’s wheels and gears may continue to turn; however, it is where we choose to ride them that will determine the direction of our lives.

Under the wonderful found object Markus writes: “Gears are all around us. They are the wheels of life. Those in a clock mark the passage of time. Others, like, say, those places in a V-twin engine do just the opposite. They free us from time. Wonderful!”

Those that know Markus, know his love of the Matchless emblem. Here is it displayed prominently on the front fender. It can also be found on an amazing sculpture titled “Midnight Rider”. I encourage you to view this piece as well. I think you’ll love it!

Serigraph on board
32" x 24.5"

 

 


The Dreamer

From his days as a terminally ill accountant, to a starving billboard painter, and now to a museum exhibition of his “dogs in suits”, Markus Pierson is living proof that anything is possible if we push beyond and know that our lives are boundless.

Markus’s words found on the painting read: “I knew they were laughing. I knew they thought it wouldn’t work. No matter. For by simply daring to make it I had cast myself from their lot. I was a dreamer.”

Mixed media on board
41.5" x 24"

 

 


Seeds

The Story Behind the Image

The caption reads, “I see now, that the moments and fragments of my life return to the soil, like the seeds of a flower. The bigger the day, the better the seed. I know that precious few will take root and grow into something lasting, but I see my days for what they truly are, not one moment or fragment too soon.”

The artwork conveys the realization that moments or fragments of days leave in their passing, a legacy of energy, intent, and accomplishment, causing, in hindsight, to give thought to improved foresight.

Mixed media on board
35" x 45"

SOLD

 

 

The Optimist (Sculpture)

The Story Behind the Image

“The Optimist” takes us on a search for the perfect companion - a love that is flawless and shines like the perfect pear. But wait, as the coyote reaches for the pear he sees all the idiosyncrasies, bruises, dents, and flaws that are the essence of a unique individual. The search for perfection leaves broken hearts in its path. True beauty lies within the imperfections of the human condition. In the same way a perfect pear would look unnatural so too would a person without the imprints of their life's journey.

Cold Cast Resin
12H x 14W x 19D

 

 


Midnight Rider (Sculpture)

The Story Behind the Image

Wanderlust. The call to adventure of the open road. The Coyote rides again. Yes, the Midnight Rider.

As told by Markus , the story of this second sculpture in the motorcycle series is: “The Midnight Rider, deep into the mystery he wanders, bound for the familiar comforts of the wild unknown. Traveling by many, known by few, he drifts across the landscape like a warm summer breeze. Long may you run, Midnight Rider, long may you run.”

Sitting atop its hand painted base, Midnight Rider begs us to experience the joy of freedom. Wheels of Life, a two dimensional motorcycle work makes a wonderful companion for Midnight Rider.

Cold Cast Resin
12H x 14W x 19D

 

 


Gilded Warrior

The Story Behind the Image

What a wonderful way to begin your day with warm thoughts of that special someone. The “Gilded Warrior”, another elegant serigraph in the “love” theme is just that reminder and a must for any Pierson enthusiast. The story reads:

“Morning, and the memory lingers like a cloud up from my coffee. 8 a.m. and I’m on the run, another gilded warrior on his way to the battle, girded by an invincible, impenetrable love. A love a king would envy.”

Serigraph on paper
9" x 48"

 

 


Ship of Fools

The Story Behind the Image

Hand-Pulled Serigraph on Canvas
Image Size: 27.5" x 32"

 

 


Tin Cup

The Story Behind the Image

“A tin cup or a gilded goblet, a hut or a castle, wobbly bicycles or a Bentley; to wherever and by whatever means, my love, our journey is splendid, our cup is full.”

A tin cup can’t help but conjure up another time…a decade defined by hardship. This icon of the Great Depression has been part of our collective conscience for 75 years. Our Coyote lovers cling to each other as they freely toss the frills of their dreams into a tin cup. Together they portray what it means to truly love one another and, therefore, express the values to hold dear in relationships.


Mixed Media Graphic
Image Size: 51.75 " x 26 "
55 Arabic Numbers
5 Artist Proofs

NEW

 

 

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