Author: Greg Mort
Website: gregmorteditions.com, GregMort.com
Author Comment / Biography:
Early Years Greg Mort was born on March 22, 1952, to Tommie Sanders Mort, who traces her strong southern roots to the earliest English settlers of Georgia, and Toimi Mort who descends from a long line of Finnish stonecutters. When Mort was still a child the parents observed an extraordinary talent for recalling places and objects he had seen and then drawing them with remarkable skill.
Growing up with his older brother Terry in a rural village outside Syracuse, New York, Mort thrived on the outdoor activities made possible by the vigorous winter weather. Summers, the family journeyed south, where he enjoyed beach-combing with cousins on the Georgia coast. Mort claims that much of his creative energy flows from this passion for the outdoors and his early exposure to nature’s intricate and mysterious beauty.
Athletics were also a major influence in Mort’s early development. In high school he was a serious basketball player. In later life he would take up running and participate in numerous marathons. The rigorous demands of training contributed to developing the discipline required of a creative life.
Turing Points At age thirteen Mort’s perspective on the universe was altered forever when he first viewed the heavens through a neighbor’s crude telescope. Thus began a life-long passion for astronomy and the night sky. That summer he camped out in a tent in the field behind his house, getting up throughout the night to gaze upward and draw images of the luminous panorama wheeling overhead. As the space race heated up so did Mort’s desire to get involved through his art. He buried himself in space research, then created intricate drawings of the early NASA rockets and astronauts. Through his first backyard telescope he gazed at the craters on the moon where Neil Armstrong would take that "giant leap for mankind.”
As a teenager Mort discovered another talent, that of model making. He spent hours toiling over models of historic ships and buildings, filling his childhood home with exacting replicas. This skill has served him well: He frequently creates scale models of landscapes, buildings, and objects which he integrates into his paintings. On occasion he has scaled up, building his own 20-foot sailboat and an observatory, and creating a 20-foot Viking boat replica with Maryland master woodworker Lewis Moore.
As a beginning painter, Mort’s first fascination was with oils; until sixteen he worked almost exclusively in this medium. He sought his subjects in nature; he frequently hiked the scenic central New York countryside, camping and painting. At sixteenth his art teacher introduced him to the watercolors of Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth, and he was captivated by the challenge of this notoriously difficult material. The day he won his drivers license he drove with two basketball buddies to Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania, to visit the newly opened Brandywine River Museum and see Wyeth paintings in the flesh. (Twenty years later Mort he would visit again— this time to see the installation of his own watercolor “Golden Apples” into the permanent collection of this prestigious museum.)
At age eighteen Mort took part in an exhibition at Utica’s Munson Williams Proctor Art Museum—his first formal museum exhibit. His high school basketball mentor, Coach Dale Hesser, became his first patron, purchasing a large oil landscape.
Artistic Career Begins Following graduation from high school, Mort boldly elected to pursue his painting full time, showing his art at a local gallery. His nascent career took an unexpected turn when a collector from Washington, DC purchased all his works in the gallery.
A friend encouraged Mort to visit Washington, and there he introduced his work to art collectors and galleries. Soon another friend arranged for him to meet one of Washington’s most influential art patrons, Mrs. Joan Mondale, wife of the then-Vice President. Mrs. Mondale was so enthusiastic that she personally carried some of his paintings to her favorite art gallery. The friendship with the Mondales continued; in 1994 they would open Mort’s one-person exhibition in Tokyo when the Vice President served as Ambassador to Japan.
The year 1979 marked a watershed for the twenty-seven-year-old artist. The renowned Georgetown Art Gallery on P Street in Washington hosted his first major gallery exhibition. In addition the Smithsonian American Art Museum acquired his monumental “Lightning on Captiva,” his first major museum acquisition.
New Home In Maryland At a 1978 Washington exhibition Mort was introduced to Nadine Rose Masone, who had just purchased his watercolor painting “Letting Go”. They were married in 1980 and established their home, Great Ease, in the historic Quaker village of Ashton, Maryland, not far from Washington. In the rolling Maryland countryside Mort discovered a new world of diverse beauty to capture on canvas. Pursuing his passion for astronomy, he built an observatory in their front field, fortunately far from city lights. In 1984 the Mort twins, Kamissa and Jonathan, were born, and are credited by the artist as his greatest creative inspirations.
In that Quaker village in the shadow of the nation’s capital, noted powerbrokers gained an awareness and appreciation of Greg Mort’s art. Today he counts among his collectors former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hilary Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore, American and foreign diplomats, and scholars and scientists from around the globe. Invited to a lecture at the White House in 1998, Mort met Ann Druyan, wife of the late Dr. Carl Sagan. She commissioned him to do Dr. Sagan’s portrait. This painting was acquired by the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center.
Summers in Maine Maine’s rugged coast and outlying islands captivated Mort, as they have many artists. Beginning in 1977 he started spending summer months painting the ever-changing sea and landscape, working from dawn often into the night. For living/studio space he rented the loft of a St. George barn—cows below, canvases above. As the summers came to a close, town folk who had seen him painting or heard about his talent beat a path to the barn; many counted among his first collectors, among them neighbor Andrew Wyeth. Uneasy that this traffic was an imposition on the farm owners, in 1981 he rented the nearby Ocean View Grange in Tenants Harbor for the first weekend in August to share his work with the public, establishing a tradition that would continue and build.
In 1988 the Morts found a permanent summer home and studio in Port Clyde, purchasing and restoring Russell W. Porter's historic Fieldstone Castle, a few hundred yards from the Marshall Point Lighthouse. Four years later Mort commissioned local builder Michael Smiley to design and build a large post and beam barn on the property as his studio. There he continues the tradition of hosting an annual Open Studio the first weekend in August to show his summer's creations. With the growth of Mort's reputation and the family’s integration into Maine life, over the past thirty years the annual Open Studio has become a regional event and a highlight attraction for residents and summer visitors.
Today Mort is recognized as a Maine Master, with paintings among the permanent collections of the Portland Museum of Art and the Farnsworth Museum of Art.
Space and the Artist Mort’s fascination with space and the universe pervades his career and weaves itself through his paintings. For over twenty years he has contributed to the space program, joining the ranks of American artistic icons Norman Rockwell and Robert Rauschenberg who also recorded our nation’s historic venture into space.
Mort’s childhood space dreams first became a reality in 1983 when he was recruited by NASA for its “American Artist and the Space Shuttle” program. In this first of many NASA commissions he portrayed Sally Ride’s historic STS 7 shuttle flight in a series of powerful watercolors that are now on display at Cape Canaveral. His eloquent visions of the night sky have been featured worldwide in the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition “The Artist and the Space Shuttle,” as well as in numerous magazines and books including Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot which features Mort’s The Fabric of Space He recently completed a painting to honor Astronaut Barbara Morgan, who flew on shuttle mission STS 118 as the first teacher in space. Mort considers his selection as a NASA artist a true privilege and one of the highest honors he has experienced as an artist.
Mort served on the Board of Visitors at the McDonald Observatory, creating large-scale murals recording the historic construction of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope. He is presently on the Executive Board of the Lowell Observatory. He is a sought-after guest speaker on the subjects of art, astronomy, science, and creativity.
The Artist Abroad In addition to more than fifty one-person exhibitions in the U. S., Mort has shown extensively abroad. His first, in 1980, was at the Singer Museum in Lauren, Netherlands. Since then has had major international showings in Switzerland, Italy, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, and the former Soviet Union, as well as group showing in many countries around the world.
The Voyage Continues To celebrate Mort’s thirtieth anniversary as an artist, in 2007 Sea Glass Publishing (www.seaglasspublishing.com) released a stunning hardcover volume titled VOYAGES—EXPLORING THE ART OF GREG MORT. It features one hundred fifty signature water colors and oils, landscapes and still-lifes. Fifty descriptive essays offer the reader a journey into the artist’s creative mind. Well known poet Anthony Potrosky and venerated author Esmeralda Santiago contributed introspective poems and commentary which add insight and inspiration to this visual voyage. An illuminating personal interview by author J. Kelly Beatty, editor of Sky & Telescope Magazine, probes the creativity of this modern master. A scholarly Introduction by gifted author and Padua University Astronomy Professor Francesco Bertola and a revealing Afterward by Distinguished Professor of Cultural Diplomacy and Ambassador Cynthia P. Schneider provide further testimony to Mort’s artistic genius. VOYAGES is skillfully edited by award winning author and National Geographic editor Thomas Y. Canby.
Mort maintains long-standing and valued relationships with two prestigious world class American galleries. Greg has enjoyed a warm partnership with the world renowned Carla Massoni Gallery (www.massoniart.com) in Chestertown, Maryland, which for fifteen years has represented his work nationally and internationally. In addition for over twenty years he has collaborated with the celebrated Somerville Manning Gallery (www.somervillemanning.com) in Greenville, Delaware, which also exhibits N.C,, Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth.
Academy Art Museum, Easton Maryland Boston City Fine Arts Collection Brandywine River Museum Corcoran Gallery of Art Cornell University Space Sciences Center Delaware Art Museum Farnsworth Museum of Art Goddard Space Flight Center Lawrence University Wriston Art Museum Lowell Observatory Steel Center McDonald Observatory Mesa Southwest Museum Montgomery County Public Art Collection NASA Art Collection, Smithsonian, Planetary, Aeronautics, Shuttle Art North Museum Parkersburg Art Museum Portland Museum of Art Sandy Spring Museum Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Smithsonian American Art Museum Sun Cities Art Museum University of Maryland Artists Collection University of Padova, Padova, Italy Vatican Observatory Rome, Italy