Mark Shasha (born 1961) is an American artist. He is also an author, illustrator and educator. His subjects are often familiar and are usually inspired by the textures and light found along the New England coast where he lives and works.
Shasha studied art at Rhode Island School of Design where he received his B.F.A in 1983. His artwork has been seen in museums, galleries and dozens of publications for three decades. His paintings have appeared in more than 50 notable exhibitions from Hollywood, California to the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in Connecticut and the Society of Illustrators in New York City.
Shasha's work has received acclaim; "Captivating" (Smithsonian), "Alluring and dreamy" (The New York Times), "Beautiful and strongly atmospheric" (Publisher's Weekly), "Dazzling, beautiful" (Marblehead Reporter). But some of his early published pastel work has been criticized as "airy" and "static" (Lisa Dennis - Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh).
His art is found in public and private collections worldwide and his children's books have been read by millions.
Mark Shasha began his career in art as a writer and illustrator with the Boston Phoenix, the Boston Globe and several other publications. His first book, the children's classic1 Night of the Moonjellies (Simon & Schuster, 1992) was inspired by childhood memories of working at his family's hot dog stand by the sea in New London, Connecticut in the early 1970s.
The story features a warm relationship between a boy and his grandmother along with a variety of characters busy with the hustle and bustle of the fast food business. It also features a bioluminescent jelly-like creature found in the North Atlantic called a moonjelly or Ctenophore (pronounced 'tee ne for').
The book won much praise including a Marion Vannett Ridgway Award and selection by Smithsonian Magazine as a "Notable Book". It is used as a part of several educational programs worldwide for its incidental relevance to an array of subjects including intergenerational relationships, running a family business, narrative art, ocean life and others. It continues to appear on some bestseller lists each summer.
Another book by Shasha, The Hall of Beasts (Simon & Schuster, 1994), an unusual story about a mysterious mural in an abandoned inn by the sea, did not fare quite as well commercially. The title was perhaps too menacing for the wider children's book market.
In the 1990s Shasha visited hundreds of schools and libraries from New England to Kansas City, Missouri to perform unique educational programs on writing, illustrating and the mysteries of the creative process. His original programs combined reading, music, math and Renaissance history and proved to be particularly useful to schools.
During his first school visit in 1992 Shasha wore a bright yellow suit out of concern that the children's attention would wander otherwise. But keeping the attention of the children proved not to be a problem. Instead, the popularity of "Mr. Moonjelly in the yellow suit" caught on and invitations came from schools nationwide.
In recognition of his work with more than 150,000 children, the Children's Museum of Southeastern Connecticut awarded him the Shining Star Award for his "Outstanding contribution to the education of young people."
By 1999 Shasha reportedly felt his work with schools and publishers had taken him too far from art. He put away the yellow suit and returned full-time to his studies in fine art and to oil painting in particular. A series of prominent commissions2, awards3 and exhibitions4 have frequently placed his work in the public eye.
Shasha is a winner of numerous art awards including the Guild of Boston Artists' Silver Medal and Rockport Art Association's Antonio Cirino Award for Excellence and was included in the 2007 group exhibition The Past and the Present - Time and Space Cannot Separate Them, the 85th Anniversary Exhibition of the North Shore Art Association, which featured distinguished artists of the association’s history. The exhibition was reviewed in American Art Review Magazine in August of that year.
Shasha is listed in the American Artists' Bluebook. He is represented by The Crane Collection of Manchester, Massachusetts and a few other select galleries.
1Smithsonian Magazine, 1992, Nov. p. 42
2Marblehead Reporter, “Hitting a Home Run - Mark Shasha’s Great Contribution”, June 2, 2005 p. 1
3The Boston Globe, "Mark Shasha's Harbor", June 21, 2005 p. E4 Living/Arts
4Robert's Snow, 2005
- Salem News, "The Pages of Children's Books Fill Marblehead Museum", by Matthew K. Roy, Feb. 2, 2006
- The Boston Globe, "Mark Shasha's Harbor", June 21, 2005 p. E4 Living/Arts
- The New York Times, Vivien Raynor, "Dancing Fairies, Cavorting Pigs: Illustrations for Children’s Books" August 8, 1993, p. 16
- "Something About the Author", Who's Who Encyclopedia of American Authors, volume 83, Mark Shasha, pp. 202–203. Gale Pub.1993
- The New London Day, "A Window to the World – Mark Shasha", August 28, 1992, p. B7*
- Lyman Allyn Museum of Art, Exhibition directory, New London, CT. 1992
- Children's Museum of Southeastern Connecticut, directories, 1998-2008
- Smithsonian Magazine, 1992, Nov. p. 42
- Five in a Row, Vol I, 1994, pp. 30–33
- Literature & Writing Connections : How to Make Books with Children - Grade Level 1 through 6 by Joy Evans, p. 134
- Read This Book Before Your Child Starts School by Miriam W. Lukken, p. 106
- Sesame Street Parent’s Guide, Natural Wonders, by Judith Rovenger, July/August issue, 1993
- The Regional Standard, Salem, CT., “The Book-writing Business”, June 18, 1994, p. 20
- The Hartford Courant, Student’s Get Taste of the Write Stuff, May 2, 1996, p B6
- Marblehead Reporter, “Hitting a Home Run - Mark Shasha’s Great Contribution”, June 2, 2005 p. 1
- The Reporter, “Swampscott Artist Creates Signature Piece for Hospice”, May 26, 2005 A&M p. 3
- North Shore Sunday, “A Sort of Homecoming”, Art Section, May 27, 2005
- Robert’s Snow by Grace Lin, Viking/Penguin Children’s Books, sch.pub.2006
- The Whale Trail Book – 50 Fabulous Whales, Summer 2005, Whale Trail Publishing, K&M Publishing, New London, CT. p. 12
- The Salem News, “Blooming at the Hooper Mansion”, May 13, 2005 p. B2
- Artists of The Rockport Art Association - 85th Anniversary Issue - published by Rockport Art Association Press, 2006
- The Past & Present: Time and Space Cannot Separate Them by Kathleen Valentine and Ted Tysver, Celebrating 85 years of the North Shore Arts Association – North Shore Arts Association of Gloucester, Inc. 2007, pp. 65
- Boston Globe – Arts and Entertainment – Weekend, May 31, 2008 p. 12
- Boston Globe – Arts North – In Local Galleries “Wendy Killeen” - June 1, 2008 – P.3
- Smithsonian Magazine, “Notable Books”, Nov. 2003 Issue
- Boston Globe, People/North, “Mark Shasha at Grosvenor Park”, July 6, 2003 p. 10
- The Regional Standard, Colchester, CT.,“Artist’s Sketches Draw Attention”, Vol. 9. Issue36, May 11, 1996
- The Middletown Press, “The Art of Drawing”, March 6, 1996 p. A3
- Publisher’s Weekly, Jun 6, 1996, p. 64
- Publisher’s Weekly, July 20, 1992, p. 249;
- Booklist, Dec 15, 1992 p. 24
- School Library Journal, Dec. 1992, p. 36
Shasha exhibition history in direct reference to the above article
- The Guild of Boston Artists – “The New England Painters” – 2008
- The Past and the Present -Time and Space Cannot Separate Them – The 85th Anniversary Exhibition of the North Shore Art Association - distinguished artists of the association’s history, Gloucester, MA. 2007
- Robert’s Snow Exhibition (traveling: Hollywood, Chicago, Newburyport, New York) 2005-2006
- Connecticut Fine Arts Academy 94th Annual Invitational Exhibition, Mystic, CT, 2005
- The Art of Children’s Literature - Lyman Allyn Museum – New London, CT, 1993
- Mark Shasha's homepage
- Rockport Art Association - Shasha Page
- The International Artist Bluebook - Shasha listing