Page from Marwencol on My Mind. Photograph © Esopus Foundation Ltd
Marwencol on My Mind
Esopus 5 (Fall 2005)
"This was a guy who lived across the street from good friends of mine in upstate New York. And my friend used to see this guy in World War II regalia with a one-sixth scale tank filled with military dolls [walking] up and down his country road. And one day [my friend] went up to him and said, 'I’ve got to ask, what’s the story?' And the guy says, 'I was attacked and I had a really bad brain injury. I was in therapy for a while, but my insurance ran out and I still have a lot of issues. I wanted to get better so I decided to build a little town in my backyard, a one-sixth scale town called ‘Marwencol,’ first of all for my hand-eye coordination to create little things, to use my hands more, but also to work through what I was dealing with this after this attack.' He said, 'I’ve been taking some photographs of it. I’ll show you the photographs.' These photographs were so incredible.
So this guy got better on his own basically by these series of artistic gestures that he made. He never thought of them as art. But he created these incredible photographs and we loved them, and I said we’re going to do something in the next issue. We did it and everybody loved it. And one of our subscribers, this guy named Jeff Malmberg, he called me. He was from California. He said, 'Listen, I’d really like to meet this guy. I’d like to make a movie about him, a short film.' What was going to be a short ended up being a feature documentary four years in the making. It came out two years ago and it was a big critical hit. It ended up airing on PBS and won a lot of awards.
The story gets better because this film came out, it got a ton of attention. Jeff and his wife and producing partner Chris Shellen and I basically put together a foundation so Mark can sell his work and not endanger his disability payments. And now, Robert Zemeckis, the filmmaker, he’s making the feature film about him."