Mark Needelman, The Art of Construction

blog-075Mark Needelman is an artist first and a construction person only by happenstance since he really is an artist in everything he does and he one of those people who can do anything ( welds, sews, makes airplanes, fixes cars, does concrete sculptures, dances, does CPR on people choking in restaurants, listens carefully). I have had the pleasure of working with him on Mary Sweeney’s Felted Heart studio. It was a dumpy little cinderblock cave and together we transformed it into a wonderful work space in the 658 Studios on Angier Avenue.

One of the major tasks was getting some light in there. I found and Mark installed a 8′ by 5′ steel factory window that now looks like it has been there for years. I think he lost about ten pounds doing it since he installed the window by himself which meant climbing in and out of the thing hundreds of times in the 95 degree heat.

I found out how much Mark likes order and symmetry when we were doing this project. I don’t mean order like compulsive cleanliness. In fact he is rather a mess in that department with tools lying all over the place. But he has to have things lined up square with a level or he starts convulsing. ( just kidding) but really he is a level fanatic. When he was cutting the hole out for the Window to go into the cement block wall he drew a nice level line, then he noticed that the block was not level. This caused a great deal of angst. Do you go with your straight lines or do you line the window up with the lines of the block even though they were two inches out of plumb? We finally got over that one and went with the line of the block. But I think he still looks at it everytime he passes to make sure it does not look crooked (it doesn’t even thought it is).

Another thing I can attest to is that Mark is an especially determined person. When he sets out to do something, he does it! You can count on that. That damn window is one example but another is tango. Two years ago Mark was in Piedmont Park and saw some people dancing Tango. He decided that he wanted to do that too and set out to become quite a dancer. He dances at least 5 times a week if not more. And I have to say it has paid off. He is a wonderful dancer. That is how I met Mark. A year ago when Duane and I just started dancing Mark had been dancing a year and just got back from Buenos Aires. He was one of the better dancers and was so patient and kind to me as a new dancer I have always appreciated had a soft spot for him. In fact everyone does.

On the job, we played Tango music while we were working and it was probably a good thing that there was wood and lots of building supplies all over the floor, otherwise I know I would have been tempted to stop and dance, sweat, saw dust and all, especially when a lively milonga came on.

Mark went to art school at University of Florida and in his renaissance man kind of style, he later became a registered nurse, working primarily with post injury spinal cord patients. He left nursing to go on a couple of extended trips to Buenos Aires and decided to work for himself doing construction projects which usually gives him more flexibility with his time. He told me that emergency room nurses would see injuries where people did really stupid things and the nursing staff would look at them and say or maybe think ” You did what?” So Mark definitely keeps that in mind for himself and for others he is working with so as not to end up with someone saying that to him.

One of my favorite little vignettes was doing the little tiled back splash over the sink. I had some different one foot sample sheets of beautifully colored 1×3 glass subway tiles, but we did not have enough of any one pattern to do the two square foot area behind the sink. We were just going to put it up partway but no, neither of us would have been happy with that. We cut them up and individually placed them in our own pattern and Mark installed them to cover the whole area. I think it adds a nice little surprise when someone goes into the kitchen.

So we are wrapping up the Felted Heart Studio job and will be going on to the next one soon.

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