As an artist who “paints in stone,” Mark Krueger seeks to approach the cohesiveness found in nature, revealing clarity of geometric relationships among interconnected parts. His chief concern is finding innovative ways to play with those relationships. Krueger invites his collaborators – area designers – to use onyx, marble, sandstone, and quartzite in dynamic ways to create order, surprise and delight in interior spaces.
“Stone has important things to tell us that have not yet been said. It’s a much more versatile and expressive medium than people think. I pay close attention to the technical properties as well as the aesthetic possibilities latent in the different kinds of stone, so I can help people unlock them and prepare to live with them.”
He boldly challenges the dichotomous categories of form versus function that keep many artists’ careers from progressing except on a one-sided track. “Why can’t an artist’s work serve a dual function? Why can’t it be both art and an armoire, art and an insert in a backsplash?” To suspend judgements about artistic purity can be liberating, in Krueger’s opinion. “I feel happy knowing someone sees my artwork every day, that it is woven into their daily routines. Art shouldn’t just be reserved for special occasions.”
Mark Krueger’s studio is in Wallingford, Connecticut, and New Haven County is his home base. The market for his high-end customized stone installations extends to Long Island, Manhattan, Westchester, and Fairfield County, Connecticut, where people often take great pride in their aesthetic displays. Important sources for his materials are Onyx Stone in Woodbridge, Ele Mar Stone Distributors in New Haven and New York Stone in West Haven, CT. He has also created an alter ego, Armando Bertoli, who represents his work in Europe: armandobertoli.com
In a world of pre-fabricated options, where creating an interior is often simply an exercise in multiple choice, Krueger says: “Make yourself available to the end users. Lift the limitations. Show them something more is possible.” He wants to give people the confidence to be creative, and the assurance that each of his stone installations is the first and only one of its kind.
Designers help provide continual feedback from customers and become true creative partners. It is through the daunting work of listening between the lines for what people really want, what might surpass their expectations, prototyping, discussing and elaborating that Krueger stays inspired to inject artfulness into what has essentially remained a rather stagnantly commercial process over the decades.
Krueger’s installations are like murals, belying his roots as a painter. The work is realized in two-and-a-half dimensions, highly customized and site-specific. Subtle gradations in finish, from quite rough to a smooth polish, treat the light differently. “Some day I’ll teach people how to do it. I’d love for other people to do it, but do it by hand.”
Another innovative tactic he uses to push stone beyond sculpture and mosaic is to bond thin slices of it to glass with clear epoxy resin. The results can be used in place of what might commonly be a freestanding glass enclosure, such as a shower door, and backlit to produce dramatic ambient effects.
“Those who choose to collaborate with me have access to a whole new palette.” Onyx is especially suited, Krueger finds, to use as part of unique light fixtures. Bonding a thin layer of onyx to another stone produces light variation in the underlying stone’s color. “Shading in this way, if we need another shade of green than one we find normally occurs, we simply make it. We can literally create new colors of stone.”
Yet, a world of infinite choice is not actually the end goal in our age of extreme complexity and uncertainty. Krueger provokes collaborators to wonder together, “how do we thoughtfully eliminate information to make life more manageable?” Arriving at the proper level of abstraction by bringing the information embedded in a project through several stages of reduction is, in his opinion, one of the most important design questions to resolve. The solution is different each time, speaking to the needs, constraints and reference points that inspire each set of circumstances in which he works.
Krueger hopes in the future to take collaboration to a new level with other artists. He notes, “on a nice, big residential project, we can create internal surfaces that have future flexibility. One of the big unexplored spaces in homes is the ceiling. In Europe, ceilings are really designed and thought through. Stateside, you still see mostly white space.”
In place of this blank canvas, Krueger wants to create a system of panels which could be periodically replaced as an interchangeable design element. An end user could have seasonal sets of ceiling panels, for instance, with different color schemes, or wish to highlight a particular thematic or design element from a particular part of the world. “The idea is, you don’t have to live with it forever, but you don’t have to start from scratch when you want a change.”
“I want collaborating with me to be a fun form of creative expression, not overwhelming.” To that end, Krueger invites members of the design community to have him speak about the medium of stone and its untapped capacities. Images of work in various stages plus actual stone samples make for sensory rich, interactive experiences. Email email@example.com for scheduling. You may also see him present live at Pechakucha New Haven on Wednesday, November 13 at Bentara Restaurant. http://pkn-newhaven.org/NextEvent