The Librarian, Circus Sisters, Hello & Other Portraits at Seventy by Cynthia Markert

In 2010, Cynthia Markert was one of the first artists we carried at Rala. Since then, we've proudly hosted her every year, with each show surpassing the last! Last year, serendipitously, opening night coincided with her birthday, allowing us to honor her profound influence on Knoxville's art scene. This year, her show entitled, "The Librarian, Circus Sisters, Hello & Other Portraits at Seventy" promises to captivate. Join us on April 5th, 2024 for a memorable experience. 

Past Cynthia First Friday Shows

If you're not familiar with Cynthia Markert and her artwork, let us give you a glimpse into her inspiring journey. 

After graduating from the University of Tennessee, majoring in Studio Arts and minoring in Women's Studies, Markert embarked on her artistic journey. She's been creating her iconic paintings on wood ever since, garnering attention from publications and galleries nationwide. Notably, her work has earned her a place in the archives of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. 

If you're a Knoxville native, you might recall seeing Cynthia's artwork gracing the wood panels of downtown constructions sites. She ingeniously used the wood around town as her canvas and it definitely caught people's attention. Here are some snapshots from 2003. 

Construction workers stand besides Cynthia's work on wood panels. 

Through years of conversations, Cynthia has expressed that the women that inspire her artwork come from her experiences in her twenties when she was searching for herself. She became passionate about four historical icons: The Odd Woman, The New Woman, The Free Thinking Woman and The Flapper, taken from the times between the Belle Epoque and the Jazz Age. Cynthia tells us that she does not paint them but they appear and she then recognizes them. "They are comrades that have fortified my spirit and I've often thought of a circus or parade where they suddenly notice a gaze and gaze back at you in a startled moment of recognition." Inspiration from other figures such as James Joyce’s daughter Lucia, Zelda Fitzgerald, and friend Andie Ray also frequently appear in Cynthia's work. 

Reflecting on her career, Cynthia says her work is ultimately a self reflection. Her portraits being her inner resonance. "The sensation of vulnerability - of being in some sort of “parade” - the costumes we wear - intimacy - the need for protection and the act of protecting. I must include my sister and mother, both now gone, the most profound triangle of my life. Their impact and their visits after leaving this present world I continue to live in for now. These are all lessons in life". 

Cynthia working on "Kisses 50 Cent"

Cynthia shared with us that as she approaches her seventh decade, she's embracing a mindset of allowing her creativity to flow more freely, hoping it will unveil realms beyond her perceived boundaries. Reflecting on our conversation, she posed a poignant question: "Can it all be accomplished in one lifetime? I doubt it. At my reception, people will see what I’ve accomplished; whereas I see what I’ve failed to accomplish and there’s so much more. It’s infinite and only limited by time itself."