Lawler, an assistant professor in The University of Southern Mississippi’s Department of Art and Design, is teaching an art photography class in London this summer in the university’s British Studies Program, where he’s also taking stock of how far he’s come from the creative exploits of his youth in that woodshop to sharing his artistic passion with students while also seeing his digital collage piece “Compassion” on display as part of the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition.
The Academy accepted Lawler’s submission of his piece on only his second attempt to be part of its prestigious annual summer exhibition, which he described as “a collection produced by some of the greatest contemporary artists in the world.”
“Many people submit work every year without getting accepted, so to have my work exhibited on my second try is an incredible honor,” Lawler said. “I feel blessed and fortunate to be included alongside some of the most recognizable names in art.”
Lawler joined the USM Department of Art and Design in 2010, where he teaches graphic design. His professional work is primarily 2-D or printed art, focusing on the themes of memory, experiences and the effects of both one's being, specifically in the area of self-improvement, and has been exhibited widely across the U.S.
His drive to make art comes from “a deep desire to create something and to connect with the viewer through my art,” inspired in part by working with his father. When he’s not working on a new piece, he’s in his own workshop working with wood or other material creating furniture, among other items.
“My dad has always been a woodworker,” Lawler said. “I remember helping him when I was growing up, and the act of creating something that did not exist before has always stuck with me. I want to create and show the world something it has never seen before.”
The selection of “Compassion” further cements Lawler’s artistic bona fides, this time on the international stage, said USM British Program Director Dr. David R. Davies.
“The Royal Academy Exhibition is one of the most important venues for any artist. As far as open exhibitions go, this is about as big as it gets,” Dr. Davies said.
“For us in the British Studies Program, it’s an honor to have someone who is both a great teacher and a recognized artist work with our students. Professor Lawler is typical of the seasoned and experienced faculty member who teaches with us on the program.”
Southern Miss senior art majors Meagan Thrower and Sarabeth Sappington, both of Hattiesburg, are in London for the British Studies Program taking Lawler’s art photography class. The two praised Lawler’s talents as a teacher and artist.
“I’ve been a student of John Mark Lawler’s for three years now, and I can honestly say he’s taught me some of the most valuable lessons of my college career,” said Thrower. “He’s truly a pillar of the graphic program at Southern Miss, and now an established artist halfway across the world.”
“Having an incredibly skilled photographer and artist as a professor allows me to get first hand expertise and advice on my own photography,” Sappington said. “Seeing his artwork in the exhibition was exhilarating, and inspires me to work just as hard.
“Taking his class in London has opened my eyes to many new places, exhibits, and artists I wouldn’t have discovered on my own,” Sappington continued. “I will never forget this experience.”
For more information about the Royal Academy of Arts, which is marking its 250th anniversary this year, visit https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/about-the-ra. For information about the USM Department of Art and Design, visit https://www.usm.edu/visual-arts.