Pastoral to provocative
Marguerite Crokus has no style, at least none by which to recognize her artwork. Looking at her Burning Man series, From the Pastoral to the Provocative, anyone would be surprised that all eight pieces are by the same artist.
“The subject dictates the style and medium,” Crokus says.
The first of the series, “Follow Me,” is the only one in which she appears. In the painting, Crokus, a petite, curly-haired blonde, is dwarfed by a large Burning Man/Black Rock City sign. With a bare-midriff, her blue-jeaned, white-shirted figure invites the viewer to participate in the famous festival.
Her depiction of herself in the 3-feet-by-4-feet masonite oil painting is unlike her appearance today. She is dressed in a charcoal, V-necked jacket, slim skirt, a necklace and sparkly black shawl—necklace and shawl of her own creation. The necklace has an amethyst stone set in silver.
“My design is labor intensive and is put together like a puzzle,” Crokus says. “It takes three days to make.”
Five works in her series are landscapes. She says the most abstract one, “The Burn,” is meant to capture the excitement and color of Burning Man.
“The Exitation of Electrons” illuminates a multi-colored tent encampment set against the whirling desert dust and a fiery red sky. (Crokus often uses playful spellings and plays on words in her titles.) Framing the picture is a handwritten explanation of pyrotechnics and an equation for the fundamental frequency of the drumbeat.
“It’s that colorful, that packed together,” she says, describing the event. “The sky’s really not that red, the whole sky is not filled with red, but I wanted to convey it that way.”
Two works focus on participants enjoying the Black Rock Desert festival. “A Daytime Caste of Characters” represents daytime activities and two art vehicles. The other, “Sex is a Sporting Event,” shows a little bit of the event’s eroticism.
Other works convey other styles. The dust kicked up from a cowboy’s horse has a miasmic effect in “Get Out of My Way AJ,” which contrasts with Crokus’ realistic watercolor house portraits. These she paints, she says, so “people can look at their houses without having to go outside.”
Sometimes she takes her brushes and watercolors to do her paintings on site.
"[I paint] landscapes because they’re really beautiful, and development is tending to wipe out some really beautiful ones,” Crokus says. “I want to preserve the vision that I see, that image. Who knows which landscape is the next to go?”
Crokus says she had a moment of revelation when she was first introduced to one of her early inspirations as a 9-year-old elementary school student in Massachusetts, copying the masters from a set of postcards.
“I realized this is what art is about when I was handed ‘Starry Night.'” Van Gogh’s influence may be surprising to some, since impasto (the application of thick layers of paint) is seemingly one of the few techniques that isn’t part of her repertoire.
Crokus teaches five-week watercolor classes for Sparks Parks and Recreation. The next begins Jan. 22; those participating will have their works displayed at the Sparks Library.
Crokus hopes to acquire a larger studio space and paint a better sagebrush. But will that sagebrush be realistic or abstract? Oil or watercolor? With Marguerite Crokus, you’ll have to wait and see.