Moving Freely Between Representation & Abstraction

(Artwork above: Fall Fury by Ken Marunowski)

Now you see him, now you don’t! Not your normal disappearing act, Bend artist Ken Marunowski may be spotted painting along the Deschutes River, up in the mountains, or in the local neighborhoods of Bend. When you don’t see him, he is likely working in his studio on some large-scale abstractions to be displayed at the Peterson Roth Gallery that represents him.

April was a big month for Ken: He not only made a mixed-media painting that was awarded the official selection for the Sunriver Music Festival’s 41st anniversary poster, but also painted a violin for the Cascade School of Music’s annual fundraiser that sold for $500 at a silent auction. These charitable donations are among his most “realistic” and accord with his plein air (in open air) paintings that also seek to capture a likeness of the motif before him. “When it’s important to capture a likeness of something, I certainly am able to do so, but I also love to push my art into unknown regions of abstraction that yield rather unexpected results.”

Ken’s abstract works are quite sizeable, often 4’x5’ or 5’x6’, with his largest effort measuring a whopping 48”x96”, a piece titled Fall Fury. At 6’3” himself, Ken finds that larger canvases resonate with his physical being, allowing him to use his entire arm and the flow of his body when making marks. His abstractions usually begin with a vague sense of a color-scheme and a series of intuitive marks quickly strewn across the canvas. “I want to activate the entire surface as rapidly as possible, not thinking too much and allowing my instincts to guide me. Once well on its way, the painting itself often tells me what it needs, a nuanced color here or a value change there.”

The difference between his representational and abstract works is time. When out in the landscape, the artist will likely complete a painting in one session. When in the studio, an abstract work may take a month or more to come to fruition. What unifies Ken’s art is his love of the mark and lush surfaces of paint, regardless of subject matter. The beauty of his abstractions lies in their mystery. The viewer must engage the work and try to make sense of it, which puts him or her in the active role of meaning-maker, a hallmark of quality art.

In addition to his own artistic production, Ken owns a business called Spirit of Play Art where he leads groups in painting abstractly and collaboratively on a single, large canvas, efforts that foster community, team-building and creativity. He also teaches three classes a month at Layor Art + Supply and substitutes for the Bend La Pine School District.

Visit and Instagram accounts @kenmarunowski and @spiritofplayart to view more of Ken’s art and to sign up for your group painting event!

Visit for tickets to Festival Faire and to view Ken’s impressive original work of art.

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