LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A beloved local artist died on Monday. Mark Anthony Mulligan depicted Louisville like no one else could. Through his experience with mental illness and houselessness, he brought a new perspective to our city's art scene.
But, his battle with COVID-19 ended Monday.
Mulligan was impossible to describe, even for Al Gorman who was there from his first gallery in the '80s to his retrospective in 2005.
"'Who was Mark Anthony Mulligan?' is kind of a complex question," Gorman said. "He, for me, was one of the best artists I knew here in Louisville."
He was most known for his complex drawings of cities and their signs that somehow always feel like Louisville.
Gorman said Mulligan's work described "how the interstates kind of fly over the downtown and parallel to the river and through the city to other destinations."
His life was as complicated as the city he drew; Mulligan was often houseless and banned from businesses and Transit Authority River City (TARC) busses for scenes he'd make during mental health episodes.
But, his charisma and joy came through just as strongly.
Mulligan's life was documented years ago in a documentary called 'Peacelands/Mark Anthony Mulligan' made by social worker and filmmaker Greg Mattox. Mattox said he did not profit from the film.
He visited Mulligan in a nursing home last week and recorded a short interview. "Don't give up on life," Mulligan told him, with a smile on his face. "No matter what problem you have, take it to your Lord above."
"We're all shocked and saddened, we all knew this day would come," Mattox said.
At 59 years old, Mulligan died in a nursing home after battling COVID-19. He continued writing a book of poetry into his final days.
The artist hoped for wealth and fame which never came. Instead, he leaned on the love of God and a caring community.
"Sometimes I would come up upon him on a bench and I would hear him talking to God," Mattox said. "Carrying on a full-blown conversation with God."
Mulligan found God, from the bus stop to the birds-eye view. If you didn't see the signs, he did.
In one of the hundreds of letters Mulligan wrote Gorman over the years, he defined the "Gulf' sign that appeared in many of his drawings.
Rather than a corporation, Mulligan saw a holy acronym. "God's Unique Love Forever," he wrote.
He shared and celebrated that love, for a short time in his life, and forever in his art.