“Wood would just collapse when a wind storm comes,” said Mark Anthony Mulligan as he drew a brick building in the documentary “Peacelands/Mark Anthony Mulligan.”
If there was a song to be sung, a smile to be shared and people to listen, Mark Anthony Mulligan, Louisville folk artist, songwriter, and inspirator was enthusiastically willing to join. Monday, Nov. 28, Mulligan, a fixture on Bardstown Road, passed away at the age of 59. He was in care at the Wedgewood Healthcare Center in Clarksville, a facility for short-term recovery, rehabilitation and senior care.
Mulligan was born in Louisville and spent much of his adult life in and out of care facilities and hospitals or on the streets. Mulligan had various diagnoses that added to his challenges, but was a spirited individual who gained a loyal following of fans and friends over the years. For sure, if you lived near the Highlands or Bardstown Road area, you at some point, had an encounter with Mulligan. With his characteristic wide grin, bright eyes and waving arms, Mulligan made wherever he was more colorful — more kind.
Mulligan the Artist
In the early ‘00s, Mulligan brought his artwork to gallery owner Chuck Swanson who then helped Mulligan find exhibitions for his work. Swanson represented Mulligan through his gallery for more than 10 years, according to artist Al Gorman in the “Peacelands/Mark Anthony Mulligan” documentary. Gorman worked with Swanson at the time. Before finding representation with Swanson, many galleries in Louisville turned Mulligan away.
Mulligan’s most well-known artworks share dense cityscapes that illustrated his keen ability to observe and interpret his environment both as it was and as he needed it to be for conveying his message. Deeply religious and wildly humorous, he often added elements of his own personality to his drawings. Street and business names in his pieces frequently were invented and conveyed his sensibilities. His works, though displaying a definite folkiness, offered a level of skill and conceptualization much like that of renowned artist Jacob Lawrence or fellow Kentuckian, Helen La France. Like La France, Mulligan’s work often blurred the boundary of ‘folk’ with strong interpretive elements.
His work sometimes expanded into portraits, poems and games.
In 2021, Mulligan was diagnosed with COVID and placed on a ventilator. He recovered from the ventilator but remained missing from his usual spaces along Bardstown. Mulligan spent his final days at Wedgewood. He is survived by several siblings, nieces and nephews and a city full of folks who knew him and will feel his absence.
Upon hearing about his passing — even before it was confirmed — well-wishes and stories of Mulligan spread throughout social media. Here are a few of the memorials to this amazing human.
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“Well, the key to life is keep on living, and try your best to help out and keep on giving
Whatever you do, stay alive. Help others to, to survive.” -Mark Anthony Mulligan from Peacelands/Mark Anthony Mulligan.
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