Michelangelo didn’t have it. Renoir was missing it. As for Picasso, luck didn’t deal it to him.
But self-made sculptor Dr. Mark Seraly has it—a day job that delivers his subject matter in a steady stream of people. True, they were all inspired, but inspiration comes from a subject he knows best—the human body.
The 46-year-old Canonsburg dermatologist, of course, treats patients with conditions of the skin, but when he’s out of his scrubs and in his studio, he creates bodies of art.
It was just 14 years ago that Seraly first touched the cold moist clay to blaze a trail to this surprising and fruitful second career. In 1996, he was at the University of Pittsburgh working on his dermatology and chief residency when he commented on a patient’s earrings.
“It turns out she made them and then asked me if I had any interest in art. I told her I liked sculpture,” he said.
Then she hooked him up with well-known sculptor Susan Wagner. Her pieces adorn PNC Park with the likes of Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski and Roberto Clemente. Not a bad hook-up.
From there he took a class at the Center for the Arts where he says he was “the only bald guy in the room with a bunch of backpacking kids.” By the time he completed the class, his instructor told him he ought to be a professional sculptor.
Since then he has worked tirelessly in an eternal pursuit to understand the human form. “I never grew up thinking I was an artist. Things I’ve gravitated toward are right brain. This is a natural fit with things I do as a doctor,” he said.
Seraly attributes his role as a dermatologist to his success in sculpting.
“I get to study the human form. I see smiles, tears, the changing of body posture,” all which translate into his attention to detail on his pieces. “What I’ve learned in my career goes hand-in-hand with my art. Not a lot of sculptors can have that,” he said.
Born in Brunswick, Maine, where his father served at the Naval Air Base, he was raised a Navy child. He claims his father’s influence, along with a certain dose of his maternal grandfather’s OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) tendencies, have likely helped him along the way.
He spent grade school through high school in Succasunna, New Jersey, where he developed his love for the West and Native American traditions. He studied, collecting American Indian artifacts, and always fueling his passion. He takes that history and applies it directly to his pieces where the observer can take in the accuracy of his work and place himself alongside Chief Gall at the Victory Dance, the Hopi Girl or Ishi, in the spirit of the hunt.
His latest piece, Indian on Horseback Fighting Bear, is almost complete.
Seraly will hand deliver it to Coopermill Bronzeworks in Zanesville, Ohio where it will undergo the casting and molding process. He’s come to know the foundry owner Charlie Leasure, who has taught him yet another phase of the artistic process, allowing Seraly to see his pieces through to the finished product.
Seraly’s work surrounds his patient waiting area, office and home, but never did he dream his pieces would be included in private, public and corporate art collections.
A bust of Peter Rossin was commissioned by the Rossin family and sits in the Rossin Campus Center at his alma mater, Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, PA.
Given the choice of whether to practice as a dermatologist or spend his days sculpting, he answered, “Both. I tell my patients my commitment to them is 150 percent. I’m not just a doctor with a hobby.”
Without his patients, his work wouldn’t have the edge it does.