Pheromone...an attraction like no other
For years I’ve attended the High Point Markets. Most years I leave the market inspired but rarely truly blown away.
Well “Congratulations!” goes out to Christopher Marley. He did it! He lured me in with what I thought from a distance were just cool, well composed, kaleidoscope patterns tastefully presented and framed. Well, they were so much more…
As I stepped into his booth, I sucked in a quick breath as I came to the realization I was viewing bugs and beetles. I crinkled my nose back (I’m not one for creepy crawlies) and leaned in closer to a very large museum piece of a series of very colorful fish. I could honestly see the compassion and care that he used in creating this masterpiece. Many, I assume, would find his subject matter disturbing, especially those with a touch of arachnophobia! Still as I walked through his display, I found nothing unpleasant about the pieces, rather I began to understand the title Pheromone … I was drawn to the pieces, I found myself peeking around corners, being pulled into the next gallery. An attraction like I had never experienced before.
Disappointingly Christopher himself was not available the day Kathleen and I were cruising the Salon of Market Square. He did, though, grant me an interview when I returned to Connecticut. His work itself is impressive, but by the time I completed my interview I found myself also genuinely liking the man himself. He is well spoken, gifted, witty, and well…humble. See if you agree ….
LD: Thank you Christopher for taking the time to meet with me and share a little bit more about the man behind this stunning, unique, and uncommon art. Pheromone, why this title?
CM: When I started 17 years ago, I was working exclusively with insects. For many insect species pheromones are the only tool that these organisms have of finding each other. Some male silkmoths, for example, can detect a single pheromone molecule from miles away. Pheromone seems to encompass the elements of attraction, insects, and discovery all tied up in one sexy word.
LD: I had the pleasure to meet a wonderful staff member at Market that shared the years of work, processing, and details that went into one of the museum pieces on display. Truly amazing. What is a quick overview of the process for some of your more ‘readily available’ pieces? How do you obtain the subjects? Preserve? Etc…
CM: I have worked to develop a number of preservation techniques – some of which are proprietary – for the various materials I work with. I will say that, generally speaking, invertebrates like insects and crustaceans are the easiest to preserve. Plants pose very specific challenges and require more specialized techniques, while vertebrates pose the most daunting challenges in order to perfect lasting preservation. I am fortunate to work with a varied array of insect catchers, fishermen, paleontologists, botanists, museums, and aquariums in order to obtain the specimens I work with. All of the specimens that I work with are legally and ethically acquired and have an environmentally neutral if not beneficial effect on their respective ecosystems.
LD: To date, what is your favorite piece created?
CM: Tough questions!
LD: You don’t strike me as a man that doesn’t like a challenge!
CM: Well, it is a bit like asking which of my children is my favorite (and each of my four boys would have a different answer). I will have to say that I have always been most attracted to the beetles and the reptiles. One of the Coleoptera Mosaics or one of my snake pieces would probably top the list.
LD: Do you have any ‘formal’ training, education?
CM: I do have some formal training, but nothing that prepared me for my specific field. I studied graphic design and worked for over a decade in the fashion world, shooting on location in dozens of countries. Travel and the opportunity to discover and study exotic organisms in their natural habitat was critical to the development of my passion for nature, whereas the opportunity to work for some of the world’s most celebrated labels honed my crisp, precise aesthetic.
LD: Is there anyone who has influenced your work, style, or your point of view?
CM: Probably my father more than anyone. Growing up, I loved looking at his boyhood wildlife drawings. It was his passion for the exotic birds he raises which informed and encouraged my innate love for the darker, more enigmatic side of nature.
LD: It’s refreshing hearing your dad had such a big impact on you, I love that! Can we dig deeper? Personal life, who are you? Family? Hobbies? Can we have a glimpse of who the man is behind the art?
CM: I come from a large, family full of very strong personalities. My father was an entrepreneur who is devoted to his family, his God, and principles of goodness. He grew up in a rough environment where the fighters survived and many of the rest either escaped or sunk into substance abuse. He chose to fight and, for better or for worse, I took his example to heart. I have a beautiful wife who is the best friend I could hope for. I have four boys who are talented, scary-smart and very unique. We Marleys don’t always blend in as well as we’d like unfortunately, but it is not for a lack of trying. We use the term “twice exceptional” a lot in our family. We each seem to have a few gifts that are noteworthy and a few deficits that are exceptional as well. I’m always working to shade a bit between the blacks and the whites in my life.
LD: I find quotes very inspiring … they are tacked up all over my studio. Do you have a favorite quote?
CM: It is written that God said: “all things which come of the earth…are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart…and to enliven the soul.” It inspires me to know that the passion and energy I feel interacting with the natural world is as it should be.
LD: Lastly, it appears you are ‘living a dream’. Your passion and love for your work is easy to see … is this it? What’s next ?
CM: I have been blessed more than I deserve. I intend to push the boundaries of my own creativity in the near future with compositions and creations that I hope will eclipse anything I have done in the past.
“IN MY MIND, there is little separating art and life sciences. It is like trying to extricate dance from music. Art’s purpose is to heighten our aesthetic sensibilities, to sharpen our ability to experience beauty, to empathize with those life systems we come into contact with, to derive pleasure or stimulation from our interaction with arranged elements, in whole or in part. How does nature differ? We dance with it and within it. The aesthetics (or art) of nature is the rhythm we move to.” — Christopher Marley
Special thanks to Christopher for taking time away from his studio and family for this interview. The entire LDD team looks forward to introducing his creations to our clients and followers.