Women in chairs

Mark Ceccarelli

Artist Mark Ceccarelli, his painting “Pampered,” and  a mannequin head.

Artist Mark Ceccarelli, his painting “Pampered,” and a mannequin head.

Photo By brad Bynum

Aquarius Salon is in Arlington Towers, 100 N. Arlington Ave., 284-8620. For more information about Mark Ceccarelli, visit http://markceccarelli.com.

Art—it’s not just for galleries. It’s an easy mistake to assume that the only artwork with any validity is the stuff in the professional galleries and museums. But there’s great art all around Reno: in coffee shops, restaurants, bars, banks, and, of course, hair salons.

Mark Ceccarelli is an artist who paints with a loose, naïve style and lots of bright, bold acrylic colors.

“Don’t ask me why, but I mostly do women and chairs—paintings of women lounging in chairs,” he says.

He cites Pablo Picasso and Dr. Suess as major inspirations, and both of those influences are tangible in the work. Many of the fractured, Cubist facial compositions look like they could come straight out of a late period Picasso sketchbook, and the works have a goofball humor that the good doctor would appreciate. The large swathes of bright color might be a little reminiscent of, say, Henri Matisse. Big name influences, to be sure, but Ceccarelli approaches his work with humility.

“I always wanted to do art,” he says. “I know my chances of making it as an artist are very slim, but I always use this George Burns quote … ‘I’d rather fail at something I love than succeed at something I hate.’”

Ceccarelli was born in Reno, moved to Mississippi for a few years, got married, and then moved back here to raise a family.

His painting “Pampered” features a decadent and gaudy-looking woman lounging in apparent opulence. Her face has a vapid expression, and the overall impression is one of comic grotesquerie.

“I don’t know where she came from,” says Ceccarelli of the painting’s subject matter. “It’s whimsical to me. It makes me laugh, and it’s interesting to look at. It puts me in a good mood.”

Ceccarelli approached Tres Benzley, the owner of Aquarius Salon, a downtown hair salon, about exhibiting some of his work there. Ceccarelli was interested in Aquarius in part because it’s near his day job as a valet attendant and bellman at Plaza Resort Club. Benzley liked Ceccarelli’s artwork, and five of Ceccarelli’s paintings, including “Pampered,” are currently on display in the salon above shampoo stations and wig-wearing mannequins. It’s a funky salon, with bright aquamarine walls, and Ceccarelli’s paintings fit right in.

A hair salon is, in some ways, a perfect place to display art—especially paintings of women sitting in chairs.

“I like viewing what we do as art,” says Benzley. “I’m an artist. It’s not on canvas, but it’s an artform. And we’re part of our community and like to do what we can to support it.”

Benzley has been a hair stylist for more than 20 years and opened Aquaruis in Arlington Towers three years ago.

What kind of reaction do customers have to the paintings?

“It’s been very positive,” says Benzley. “We hear ‘Picasso-esque’ a lot.”