Mark Matthews has been serious about art, music, literature and dancing all his life. As for his sculpting, Mark routinely experiments with different materials, techniques and styles - but remains uninterested in creating a specific “brand.” He seldom displays his art beyond his home gallery in Hysham, Montana, which is why Manifestations is so excited to have a chance to exhibit his work.
Mark was born in 1951 in Lynn, Massachusetts, and graduated from Lynn Classical High School in 1968. In his senior year the Boston newspapers designated him an all-state basketball player (second team). Upon graduation he attended Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where he played basketball under coach K. C. Jones, a former Boston Celtic star who was Mark's boyhood idol. Mark graduated from college in 1974 with honors in English and American literature.
In 1981 Mark ‘’retired’’ from his position as an assistant equal opportunity specialist with the Office for Civil Rights - Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Region One (Boston) - to move into a small shack built on a dock along the shoreline of South Freeport Harbor in Maine, where he embarked on his professional sculpting career. Throughout the 1980s Mark was a featured artist at the renowned Frost Gully Gallery in Portland, Maine.
When he moved to Montana in 1989, Mark displayed his work in galleries in Seattle and Spokane, Washington, Las Truces, New Mexico, and Palm Desert, California. Around the same time he also began to call and teach contra dancing for the Missoula Folklore Society.
In 1992, while living in Missoula, Mark laid his chisels aside to pursue other interests.
By 1995 Mark had earned a Master degree in journalism from the University of Montana and for a number of years he worked as a freelance writer for such publications as The Washington Post, Newsweek, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Wildland Firefighter, Engineering News Record and the Great Falls Tribune. In the summers he fought wildfires with a crew based at the Ninemile Ranger District on the Lolo National Forest west of Missoula.
In 2005 Mark earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from the University of Montana. He went on to publish three books through the University of Oklahoma Press, including Smokejumping on the Western Fireline: Conscientious Objectors during World War II; A Great Day to Fight Fire: Mann Gulch—1949; and Droppers: Drop City--America’s First Hippie Commune. For a number of years he taught English composition and creative writing at Missoula College.
In 2017 Mark consummated twelve years of research on social dancing by self-publishing a four-volume set titled Swinging through American History. The individual volumes include: Square Your Sets: The Birth of American Social Dancing; Promenading toward Democracy: The Great Square Dance Revival; Cakewalking out of Slavery: A Study of Racism through Music and Dance; and Jitterbugging across the Colorline: Desegregating the Dance Floor.
Mark returned to sculpting in 2011. When he isn't sculpting or writing short stories he travels across Montana teaching thousands of schoolchildren how to square and contra dance, two-step, polka, waltz and jitterbug for Humanities Montana's Speakers in the Schools program. He is also on the organizing committee for the Bear Hug Mountain Music and Dance Camp held at Flathead Lake every September sponsored by the Missoula Folklore Society.
‘’There is no better way to bring people together than through the arts,’’ Mark says.