October 16, 2018
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  • Anne Arundel Community College student Mark Rollamas uses some of his paintings to represent life’s struggles.
    Photo by Zach Sparks
    Anne Arundel Community College student Mark Rollamas uses some of his paintings to represent life’s struggles.

Sight Unseen: Artist Mark Rollamas Brings The Abstract Into Focus

Zach Sparks
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August 7, 2018

When Mark Rollamas attempts to paint, he doesn’t approach his canvas with just a brush. He uses his mind, pondering how to render his subjects as symbols.

One such acrylic painting, “Unknown Woman,” depicts a woman from behind, the muscles of her back and shoulders emphasized. A light shines on her.

“I wanted to express how she goes unseen,” Rollamas said. “She was an escort for a bit. She did a lot to make her kids survive. People look past and behind her.”

Rollamas started making expressive paintings seven years ago after admiring the impressionism artwork of his grandfather, Virgilio.

Since then, Rollamas has tried many media during his pursuit of a degree in visual arts and graphic design from Anne Arundel Community College. He is enticed especially by vintage artwork and the restorative process that preserves it.

“Artwork was powerful and impactful back then,” he said. “It moved religion. It moved culture.”

During his day job as a teacher at Arundel Lodge, a mental health clinic in Edgewater, Rollamas urges clients to consider the impact artwork can have on their own well-being.

Corinna Woodard, gallery director, said Arundel Lodge is fortunate to have Rollamas teaching art classes, which are part of the day program at the facility’s Open Eye Gallery and Studio.

“He brings his knowledge, talents and skills as a fine artist to a program that offers a safe, nurturing environment where clients explore and manifest their creative visions,” Woodward said.

Rollamas can relate to clients’ struggles and teach them to use art as therapy. After all, it helped him deal with depression. His piece “A Secret Garden” illustrates that message.

“People say they want their work to be so perfect and accurate, but then it’s so cookie-cutter. I didn’t do anything special with this,” he said of “A Secret Garden.”

“It’s a regular abstract piece; it’s how I feel,” he continued. “This is my pain and I’m going to express it through my canvas.”

For that canvas, he created a buildup of layers. First came the background color, a hue that resembles the sky. With a long brush and sponge, he spread the paint with water. He scraped segments off to make room for inspirational phrases.

By sharing those positive texts and by mentoring others, he gains something, too. “Working with those people has motivated me a lot, it has inspired me,” Rollamas said.

Rollamas also trains fighters in mixed martial arts. Just like some of the subjects he has painted, he is an anomaly — a thoughtful, soft-spoken, inquisitive painter who also enjoys combat. Or maybe it’s the mentoring he enjoys so much.

“It doesn’t just apply to art or mixed martial arts,” Rollamas said of wanting to help others. “It’s enriching.”


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