Mark Anthony Mulligan is clinically diagnosed as mentally ill and moves in and out of the homeless population in Louisville, Kentucky. Using paints, markers, and crayons, Mulligan depicts colorful cityscapes in joyful urban scenes crowded with commercial buildings, industrial structures, street signs, and business logos. The African-American artist signs each work with his name and frequently records the time he spent creating the painting.
Mulligan’s artworks reflect his personal experience of the city that he encounters as he rides buses and walks around town. A native of Kentucky, Mulligan grew up in Rubbertown in southwest Jefferson County, where he says he found reassurance in the oil company logos. Thus, he interprets GULF, for example, as an acronym for “God’s Unique Love Forever” and ASHLAND as “Ask Him Love and Never Doubt.” Mulligan also makes up signs and names for streets and stores based on actual sites combined with his own observations about people he meets in those places.
His work is on permanent exhibit in the Kentucky Folk Art Center in Morehead, Kentucky, and in the permanent collection of the New Orleans Museum of Art. Mulligan’s paintings have appeared in shows at the Chicago Art Institute, the Weston Art Gallery in the Aronoff Center for the Arts in Cincinnati, the Mennello Museum of American Folk Art in Orlando, and elsewhere. In 2003, the Kenyan filmmaker Andrew Thuita directed “Looking for Mark,” an 80-minute documentary about Mulligan, both as a gifted artist and as a nomadic mental patient.