BERKELEY – All it takes is to turn on a TV or flip through your phone to find a super hero these days. They’re dominating the movie theaters, soaring into action to save the world. Kids look up in the sky to see the cape flap in the wind and a streak of color shoot past. But a local artist said that you don’t have to look at a screen or flip through a comic book to see bravery and strength.
“Your super power is your uniqueness,” Mark B. Retacco said. It belongs to everyone and only you can make it shine. At an artist’s reception recently, he had art supplies out for children where they could get creative.
“Art is always a place we can all get along. It’s cohesive, everyone is able to do their own thing without discrimination,” he said. This message is even more important in the age of social media, where doubt, anger, and hate are easily found at your fingertips.
He’s created heroes of his own, such as Space Pup Ozzi who was inspired by his dog. He’ll be the star of a children’s book he’s writing. Ozzi and two other characters were on display, made from recycled materials. Cosmic Cat Cas’ face has an exclamation mark because they’re always excited. Blind Venus looks within herself for love as opposed to relying on others’ validation. The characters pop with primary colors – much like super heroes on the printed page.
A painting “Blind Venus Goes to the White House” was sent to the Clintons in 1995, and in return he received recognition from the sitting president. The painting now resides in the Clinton Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas.
His work was featured on MTV’s Real World Boston House in 1997. He’s also done work for 20th Century Fox, Paramount Studios, and Turner Classic Movies.
In 2011, Retacco presented writer, broadcaster and Asbury Park native Wendy Williams with his painting “Wendy Williams Statue of Liberty.” He anchored and hosted programs for the Ocean Happening online magazine, and taught art at Creighton School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
In 2013, he was honored by county leaders for his “dynamic creativity” and “unmatched passion for advancing the arts community of Ocean County.” Two years later, he led a walking tour of historic downtown Toms River under the auspices of the Toms River Business Improvement District.
In a similar vein, one of his paintings is a recreation of an old post card showing downtown Toms River. The painting was done in 2015. The postcard was from 1915.
Some of the work is social satire, such as a painting about paying at the pump. This was made in 2006 but “we’re still complaining about it today.”
As many artists do, he uses his talent to express powerful emotions in a way that grabs people’s attention. One of the first paintings a visitor might see walking in is “Stop Hate Crimes,” using dramatic imagery in his bright style.
Now living in South Toms River, the Central Regional graduate said growing up there was brutal and he clawed his way out. He doesn’t want other kids to suffer the same way. He sees the news of bullying and suicide and his heart goes out to the kids.
“I rely on my faith and making the world a better place for people,” he said about how he focuses on positivity.
“My paint brush takes me on a journey of happiness, despair, and self-discovery,” Retacco said. “At times, I just glide along, losing my fears, without boundaries or inhibitions! It is my sanity and independence from this world. My superpower is my uniqueness. Your superpower is your uniqueness.”
To See The Art
“Stronger Together” It’s currently on display in the Berkeley library’s meeting room throughout May. From there, it will be at the Lacey branch in June, the Toms River branch in August, and the Barnegat branch in September.