In April 2000, Mark Hogancamp was beaten and left for dead outside a bar in his hometown of Kingston, NY. Waking from a nine-day coma, he had no memory of the thirty-eight prior years of his life, including his ex-wife, family, artistic talents, or military service. To reconstruct his past, Hogancamp built, in his backyard, Marwencol, an imaginary village set in World War II Belgium, where everybody is welcome---Germans, Americans, French, British, and Russians---as long as peace is kept. With 1:6 scale action figures and Barbie dolls, as well as toy armaments and meticulously built props, buildings, and clothes, Marwencol is an alternate reality, created with painstaking (and sometimes painful) realism and obsessive attention to detail. Here, riveting wartime dramas are played out and photographed in saturated hues and unflinching detail. The emotional narrative mirrors the artist's own: through Marwencol, Hogancamp regained his cognitive facilities. Welcome to Marwencol is an astonishing story of the redemptive power of art---of art as therapy and act of obsession.
- An accompanying film received Best Documentary awards from the film critics associations of Boston, Toronto, and Detroit, as well as gold medals at South by Southwest, Comic-Con, and the Whistler, Belfast, and Woodstock Film Festivals.
- Mark Hogancamp and Marwencol have been featured in the NewYork Times,Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Psychology Today, Huffington Post, Denver Post, Oakland Tribune, Austin Chronicle, and dozens of other magazines and newspapers, making this a truly national story about the restorative effects of art.
Booklist starred review
This book, which interleaves striking reproductions of Hogancamp's art with his tragic story and the richly imagined narrative of his fictional town, is fascinating on many levels. While his history is compelling (the beating was prompted by his revelation of cross-dressing), his work is also art in its own right: painstakingly created (the models are rigorously aged for authenticity) and carefully composed pictures that, at a glance, might be mistaken for actual WWII scenes... Truly remarkable.
With Nazi figurines, miniature G.I. heroes, and Barbie dolls, Hogancamp and his alter ego---a toy soldier named Hogie ---have managed to transform the trauma of a violent attack into an ingeniously rendered alternate reality brimming with drama, romance, and adventure.
Obsessive, unsettling, his work caught the art world's eye, was the subject of a 2010 documentary, and is now this fascinating, moving book.