Wednesday, July 1, 2009

For Mark Planisek

The Washington DC arts community had hard, sad news this week. Mark Planisek: artist, art handler and friend passed away tragically, struck by a vehicle in a crosswalk near the Clarendon metro station after leaving an art opening at the Arlington Arts Center in which he was exhibiting, " Sparkplug: New Work."

I first met Mark while I was still driving a truck moving Art in a company I used to work for. We didn't work together often, I was an over the road driver and he mostly worked locally. However, every now and then we'd meet and in the small cab of the truck we became friends. He was a conversationalist, at night we talked about a lot of stuff but it always ended up @ art. He was a true believer and he had ambition. After a while he gradually decided to leave, it's a difficult job, the money's variable, every day can be different, with scheduling and plans often times impossible to make. He was fortunate to get a great job at the National Portrait Gallery where he found a living and the time to practice his art form.

The last time I saw him was in late March at the The Ritchie Avenue Cultural Center in Takoma Park, Md. where I was giving a talk on Art and Art Handling. I wasn't really expecting anybody to come but after they turned the lights on, there he was. He came up to me and even though it had been a while since we had last seen each other, wherever the conversation started, we ended up talking about Art. He reminisced about a project he helped me with @ the National Portrait Gallery and how much he enjoyed being part of the crew. The video shows that project. We were part of the group that de-installed " Grant and His Generals." It was a difficult de-installation. It is a large heavy curved painting hung in a stairwell. I felt fortunate to be asked to be involved as I love this kind of work. There was much concern about keeping the integrity of the curve as it was taken off the wall and then brought up the stairs. We were able to design a handling frame on-site that responded to these details. When successful, these projects can show the Art in Art Handling.

Mark, if you haven't met him, is wearing blue jeans and a blue shirt. He's in the middle of the group, on scaffold, in the first scene. It hasn't been easy to reflect on his passing, from the emails and messages I get everyday, I see it's been true for many others also. The news has hit me at a time where I have been in the studio, carving, unsure, wanting more from the form than possibly I can make, struggling for meaning. Mark has amplified the search.


  1. He was an amazing man...I am so proud - Ansley

  2. Thanks for sharing this part of Mark with us. He had so many friends from all over.
    Michele from Brooklyn

  3. Thanks Ben. Mark was such a great guy. Hope to see you tomorrow at the Memorial? Pam Steele

  4. Stuart GreenwellJuly 10, 2009 at 9:12 PM

    very nice words.

  5. Hi Ben,

    This is from Anne's sister Theresa Mullen. As you may already know, Anne was Mark's partner and number one fan of his art for 16 years. He was truly a one-of-a-kind brother-in-law and my family and I know how fortunate we were to have him in our lives. He will forever remain in our hearts...he is so missed by so many.

    1. theresa..please tell anne that detlef and shannon think of her often, and miss mark every day.

  6. Stuart,

    Thank you so much for Mark's lovely memorial at the Portrait Gallery and on Facebook. I was at the hospital with Anne and my sister Marie when you stopped by the say goodbye to your good friend Mark. And Ben thank-you also for this memorial to Mark. And Michele & Tommy from were all such good friends of Mark... Theresa

  7. Hi Ben,
    Thank you for posting this.
    Mark in action. I beg for it to be real. now.
    Best to you,
    Nan Sincero

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