DeSoto Exploring the South — April 2013
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Exploring Art
Judy Smith

Holly Springs Painter Brings Life to Canvas

Holly Springs artist Mark Acetelli creates images that evoke a multitude of emotions.

The major themes of love, loss, life, and death are depicted throughout his work, uniting the artist’s soul with his public. Combining oil, wax, charcoal, and other mixed media, Acetelli describes his form of art very appropriately as “expressionism.”

Born into a creative home to an artist mother and builder father in Detroit, Michigan, Acetelli felt greatly influenced by his very talented mother, artist Jacqueline Acetelli.

“My Mom was an amazing painter and I just followed in her footsteps.”

Acetelli’s was actually first drawn to the world of music, learning guitar at 13, eventually landing a record deal with MCA Records. “I thought I was on my way,” Acetelli said. “But as fate would have it, the band imploded and I sought another artistic expression.”

Acetelli went to the local art store and bought a paint set and canvas and started painting.

In 2007, Acetelli’s mother died.

“That period in time was incredibly hard. At the time, I was still working parttime as a hair stylist at Chaz Dean in Hollywood. I left and devoted my entire life to painting,” he says.

During that time of great sadness, Acetelli threw himself into his painting.His work then became one of his most emotional and heart wrenching series, entitled “Heaven and Solitude.” His lone solitary images of a hat-wearing man or a lone figure with an umbrella, wandering through a mist of clouds in a vast expanse of time and space bring viewers to their knees with an overwhelming sense of grief and calming sense of peace. The series, like all of his work, is powerful.

“It was a very successful series of works I think in part because of its vulnerability and honesty in those paintings,” Acetelli said.

Lisa Schultz, founder of The Whole 9 Gallery in Culver City, California, has worked with Acetelli over the years. “I think Mark’s figurative work is his strongest, and as part of that, he has an incredible ability to create work that communicates the separation that all humans feel along with the hope that is essential to our existence.”

While working as an apprentice at Chaz Dean Studio, Acetelli met the love of his life, Lucia Lynn, the classically-trained soprano opera singer who was one of Dean’s clients. She has performed throughout the world in Los Angeles, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany and with the Mississippi Symphony. When the couple’s first daughter was born, they returned to Mississippi and Lynn’s family.

For Acetelli, Holly Springs has been the perfect location for the next phase of his artistic career. Acetelli has found his ideal studio in the Old Miller Building, built in 1848, on the square in Holly Springs.According to Chelius Carter, historic preservation consultant of Smiling Phoenix Design, LLC, the Miller Building was originally built to accommodate the second permanent structure for the Presbyterian church in Holly Springs.

“Having the studio at the Miller Building has really inspired me,” Acetelli said. “This is something I dreamed about when living in L.A., to have so much open space and light is a blessing.”

In 2011, Acetelli was busy working in his studio when he noticed the fierce Weather. “It was raining sideways. I was calling my wife to check on her when all of a sudden a sound like a freight train started, and then the walls started to collapse around me,” Acetelli says.

The tornado destroyed a large part of the building, sparing his studio.

Carter plans to turn the historic building into an artist’s haven with a community meeting space and a coffee house that will feature the work of local artists. While removing some of the old wallpaper and 19th century paint from the building, several interesting features have been uncovered, such as writing on the walls and poetic graffiti from another time.

“The old walls are fascinating,” Acetelli says. “They remind me of the fresco walls of Pompeii and Rome. It looks like it may have been a studio at one time, but we are really not sure. However, the current room where my studio is now used to be the law office where my wife’s grandfather had his law office back in the 1950s.”

Wil Cook of Southside Gallery in Oxford who represents Acetelli is often moved by the artist’s ability to create “raw, energetic compositions” and the amazing ability that he has to evoke such deep emotions without vibrant colors but with the talent to enhance The mood and tone of his work through his application process. “Upon first encountering Mark’s work, one senses solitude but not necessarily isolation,” Cook says.

Carter agrees with Cook’s view and feels that Acetelli brings many great things to the local area. “Mark brings to the Holly Springs community a welcome level of the creative class that has not been prominent in our town since the late 19th Century. Mark’s working studio is a harbinger of that much-needed ‘creative class’ element in a town’s vibrancy and diversity.”

Acetelli’s work has changed somewhat since his mournful days of grief and heartache, and he has found beautiful inspiration in his lovely wife and daughters.

“My art is not as heavy as it once was, but I still drink from that well,” Acetelli says. “I now have two amazing daughters, and my paintings are more about colors of life and creation, and being grateful for what I have in the present moment.”

See Acetelli’s work at The Whole 9 Gallery since 2007, “Shadows & Light” exhibit opening April 27, and Southside Gallery, Oxford April 30 to June 2.