An acquired jewel of Laurel is internationally acclaimed artist Mark Landis who now calls Laurel his home. Monday night, March 2, friends from all over the state gathered at J Parker’s Reclaimed in downtown Laurel to celebrate Landis’ 65th Birthday and watch his appearance on HGTV’s Home Town Monday night episode with Ben and Erin Napier.
Erin commissioned Landis to paint a unique portrait of the new homeowners’ dogs. She wanted a different type of dog portrait and asked Landis to paint the dogs dressed in a 1800 era clothes. (See photo, a replica of the original homeowner’s painting still in progress)
Landis is known as one of the most prolific art forgers in U.S. History, having fooled dozens of museums in many states with his works, according to a documentary, “Art and Craft,” which was produced in 2014.
Landis was never charged with a crime because he never committed a crime. He gave the paintings away. Landis enjoyed the act of convincing people that he was a wealthy philanthropist who wanted to donate the paintings in honor of his parents. He enjoyed the attention and the way people treated him.
When Landis was 17 years old, he suffered a nervous breakdown after the death of his father. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia. During his recovery, art therapy revealed Landis’ artistic talent for copying. In today’s world, his mental illness diagnosis leans more toward being bipolar.
Landis moved to Laurel in 1988 to be with his mother. After donating a painting to a museum, he showed his mother a letter of appreciation from the museum, which impressed his mother and thus fueled his actions even more.
In 2008, a registrar caught on to his act and exposed him to the museum community.
In 2013, an expose’ on Landis appeared in The New Yorker magazine, and in 2014 the documentary “Art and Craft” premiered at a film festival.
Today, Landis concentrates on producing his original works and will accept commissions to create paintings from photographs.
In 2017, Landis was asked to donate a painting for the South Central Regional Medical Center Art of Healing and was invited to produce a painting during the event.
“We were looking for a new artist who had a regional or national following to donate a piece to the Art of Healing, and someone mentioned Mark Landis,” said Linda Gavin, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at SCRMC. “I had seen the feature about Mark on television but did not know he lived in Laurel. I called him, introduced myself, and our marketing team went to meet with him. The rest is history. He has been a good friend and has donated art to our event each year since then,” she said. Artists from around the country contribute art to the Art of Healing every year.
Landis has acquired a network of friends throughout the world, including many local friends since the first Art of Healing. Everyone keeps an eye on him to ensure his well being and that he is not being taken advantage of. One friend especially has made a difference in his life.
“Missy Brame attended the Art of Healing the first year Mark contributed paintings to the event,” explained Gavin. “She was the highest bidder in the live auction for his donation of a custom portrait. They met that night and have been great friends since then.”
Monday night, with so many friends in attendance, Landis was like a butterfly flitting from person to person, welcoming them and thanking them for being there. Occasionally he would get a little overwhelmed and have to sit down for a spell. But, soon, he would be back up posing for pictures and talking with his friends. He knew everyone by name and remembered every new friend he met.
Landis’ artwork is on display at J Parker Reclaimed on Magnolia Street in downtown Laurel.