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Ty Howard
The Ellwood Story
Mark Niemi
The man behind the madness

      
 In the world of motorcycle racing the riders and teams busy themselves with the details of preparation. 

Mechanically, physically and mentally racers and the people who support them are entrenched in a mindset that for the most part precludes esoteric or asthetic creativity, just for creativities sake. The preparation for racing is based on the desire for maximum results on the track. It just does not leave much room for niceties...
 
  But in the quest for ultimate performance you do find many who take the time to assemble and fine tune their 
steeds with an eye for a clean look...and many who manufacture racing parts produce items that not only do the job but look good while doing it.
 There is much ado about eye pleasing graphics adorning sleek bodywork. Plenty of hours are burned while amazing body and paint work is being performed. The transformation from plain primered cowlings to a stunning machine is not an anomaly in the racing world.
 But when you get down to brass tacks ask any racer 
whether looks or performance are top of the mark for their machine it's hand's down that the fast ugly duckling beats out the show boat every time. 
 So given that racer's mind set, off the track you would be hard pressed to find your racing buddies in a museum looking at a Van Gogh or leafing through a magazine that doesn't have bike parts or a tech tip article. 
 Most often those in the sport live, eat, drink and breath racing... it does not leave a lot of room for much else. The passion for racing is all consuming... ask any racer's family!
 But like every facet of life there is always the loose cannon. The person that does not fit the mold. A racer that has the passion but who's creativity gene is so strong it can't be tamed or contained. 
 And that is what this story is about... a racer's racer who is not content to wrench and ride but also has a head ready to explode with artistic ideas and the talent to match!

 Moto Man
                             Mark Niemi        

 I first heard of Mark when I started checking out the top racers and teams in the CMRA. His success as a sprint racer and the his endeavors with the CMRA Big Bike endurance team Lone Star Track Days 
were well known in those circles and I enjoyed 
reading about them and listening to others who commented on his abilities and deeds. Spending time reading old posts on the club's forum boards were entertaining to say the least.
  But when I learned of his artistic talent 
it intriqued me as to how different his chosen off track pastime was from so many others. The general banter in racing circles about 'other than racing' seemed more likely to be on bicycle riding, physical fitness and the occasional firearm conversation...don't get me wrong! Those topics are some of my favorites too! But the fact 
that Mark was out there doing his own thing really turned my head. And apparently the heads of many others!

While this may not be the first piece on Mark and his art as bigger and "better"? sites have documented his world outside 
of racing, I wanted to ask Mark a few questions of my own... I wanted to get into his head a little and Mark was gracious enough to respond to a few of my thoughts and give others an opportunity to hear them as well.
 It's facinating that this sport of motorcycle racing has so many varied and interesting individuals participating in it. 
 I'm happy to let you hear from one of them!

From his site at www.markniemifineart.com Mark offers this about his history with racing...

"My racing endeavors began in 1973 when I was 19 years old. I met a couple of kids from California who introduced me to the sport of motocross and a movie called “On Any Sunday”.  Since those early days as a kid, I’ve raced motocross, cross-country, enduro, TT, AMA professional dirt track, mountain bikes,  road racing and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb event from 2010-2012. As of now, I still compete in the CMRA road races and instruct at Lone Star Track Days where I have worked since 2000.   I plan to continue to race the mountain at Pikes Peak as it offers to me some of the greatest challenges in motorsports today.  Both of these passions, racing and art, have led me to where I am today."


SBZ-So let me start off by asking what the genesis of your artistry is... where did get started in creative art?

Mark- 
  "ok...let's see....the genesis of my artistry.
 My professional art career begin in 1989 when I met the GYST Art Group, a small number of artists in my hometown in North Texas.  It was their influence that inspired me to begin creating many of my earlier works. During those first years, we would present art shows in vacant buildings, garages, colleges and any art gallery that would accept us. 
 I suppose I am like a lot of other folks. and I really consider myself a builder, much more than an artist.
I love the building process. It's like ya hear..."when my hands are moving, my mind is still."
The creative process takes me to a place that's still and calm."

SBZ- How do you come up with the ideas for your work? is there a process or does it just come to you?

Mark- 
  I was just discussing this with my long-time team mate Andy Galindo.
he asked me if I ever got artist block and I said "nope...now way!."
ideas for new work are flowing through my head like a river.
Its a constant flow, I think. maybe if I was isolated on a desert island or something.
there's so much going on around us, how can we all not be stimulated to create?


SBZ-  Does your love for motorcycle racing play a large part in the development of your work?

Mark- 
My love for racing is the reason my work has shifted and changed.
For a long-time, I built metal sculptures, wall-hangings, beds, tables and other metal objects.
But it seemed like the two worlds that I have a passion for were positioned much too far apart.
I wanted them to be closer so I kinda let them meet in the middle.
So, yea, racing affects the art as well as the rest of my life.


SBZ-  What's is the hardest part of creating the pieces? Do you do pieces for request or are all you works ad lib so to speak?

Mark- 
  Hmm. I suppose it's holding myself back a little.
I never hesitate or wait or am indecisive. I just do it without a lot of analysis.
And yes, I def do pieces for requests but use my own style. Ya gotta be true to yourself.


SBZ- Who has been your toughest critic? Do your fellow racers give you a hard ribbing for your talent or are they welcoming to the work? On the flip side who are your biggest supporters or is there anyone you want to give a shout out to for being there for you?

Mark-
  Who is my toughest critic? Me, of course.I move on easily though, believe me!
My fellow racers are huge supporters of my work.
My race-family at Lone Star Track Days and my race team are all big supporters of my work.
They are also a big reason I enjoy doing my art.
 Racers love art but I think they don't  like bluebonnets and horseheads as much as they like clutch baskets and superbike forks.
A special shout-out would be to my lovely wife Elizabeth. She's always there for me and creates an environment that helps me thrive and grow.
Or she's there when I need rest and healing or just be my buddy. And she is totally into racing and is my biggest ally at the track too.
She's pretty awesome and is the stability in my life.

SBZ- I have seen a few of your pieces, they are quite inventive and unique. Is there a particular artist or art form that was inspirational for your work as a whole?

Mark-
Let's see.......an artist that inspires me?
I think street artists produce the most exciting work. I like the early Banksy and his messages.
And Shepard Fairey had some really great early work. 

 
SBZ- Do you find any particular piece of yours that is your favorite? Why?

Mark-
 My favorite? I guess it would be the mountain bike frames. I built four frames back in 1989. They were as much of a piece of art as anything and technically the most difficult thing I've ever done. And the process of building them was a convergence of art and racing.
My latest drawings have the same effect on me. Its a good spot for worlds to connect.


SBZ- Do you sell prints or originals on your site?

Mark- 
 On my site, MarkNiemiFineArt.com, I offer original art, limited-edition prints, postcards and large canvases. 
 Of course commisioned pieces as requested are available too! 

SBZ- How can folks contact you to commission a work or just purchase prior work?

Mark- 
 Interested people can email me at niemi8@gmail.com
Or they can also go through my website www.markniemifineart.com
As well I can be reached via text or phone at 903-814-2226

 I want to thank Mark for sharing his passion for art and racing with us.. You can find more about Mark and his background at his site 
You can see Mark's About page directly by going Here!.........
 



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