Nightmarish Landscapes By Chris Mars Inspired With Brother’s Illness


Minneapolis artist Chris Mars is living proof that F. Scott Fitzgerald was dead wrong when he said there are no second acts in American lives. Though famous in the 1980s as the drummer for alt-rock heroes The Replacements, Mars eventually left the music world behind entirely to focus on the visual arts, now specializing in stunningly evocative, macabre portraits.

His painting style, examples of which grace all of his album covers, is marked by nightmarish landscapes and grotesque, distorted figures. He draws inspiration from his older brother’s struggle with schizophrenia.

He generally likes to use oils or pastels, although he ventures into other media, like acrylic and scratchboard. He created a 13-minute animated film about his work titled The Severed Stream.

His work, which has fetched prices of more than $30,000, has been shown throughout the United States and Canada. He has had solo exhibitions at Billy Shire Fine Arts, The Erie Art Museum, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Steensland Museum, Coker Bell Gallery and the Mesa Arts Center.

Chris Mars said: “I think it helps Joe in that he feels good about being part of something that can create more awareness of his disease, and various other illnesses and conditions that may cause some in society to be shunned. It definitely lifts his mood, especially when all the holiday cards come in from well-wishers all over the world. Thanks so much to all who take the time to send him greetings! My work continues to be and always will be inspired by my brother Joe and his plight. In general, though my inspiration has branched from this initial seed to now to all forms of oppression, all societal outcasts. There are so many situations in the world that find people in heavy situations from so many causes past and present – my eyes continue to be opened, and I create work in hopes of opening more eyes.”

It seems that this is a cathartic activity for many artists, which is fine. For those of us who use dark objects and works of art, we can more easily perceive the sublime or positive facets that lie in such a grotesque subject. Sometimes it is difficult to understand the other. Have you ever tried to show someone the lighter side of your work or even the work of others?

Painting is also a way to simply escape, good therapy. There are so many things happening in the world, such corruption, destruction, and death, it’s just incredible. It’s hard to think too hard because it’s just frustrating because you feel powerless and most of this energy gets into his work.