The Art of Mazes

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The art of Mazes is a blog written by Marc Pena, an artist from the Bay Area of California. It focuses on the various aspects of his work, especially in the form of art. Marc works with various media, such as photography and painting, but his main focus is on creating art with mazes.

Towards the end of his career at San Francisco State University, he began to create works that involve mazes and optical illusions. He created a series of paintings called “Maze Paintings.” This series won first place in a local competition called “The Stained Glass Show.”

After this series, Marc then began to create many other works involving mazes. He became interested in designing book covers for books by authors such as Isaac Asimov and Neal Stephenson. In addition to the book covers, he is also interested in designing posters and logos that are based on maze patterns.

Artists often use the concept of a maze as a metaphor for the complexity of our world, and contemporary artist Marc Pena is no exception. While his work doesn’t literally create a physical maze, it creates an artistic one through both his medium and his choices of imagery.

The first thing that you might notice about Mazes is its format. Unlike most books, it is bound on the left rather than the right. As a result, when you flip through its pages, you will find that your eye moves down the columns in reverse order from how we are accustomed to seeing them.

Titled Because I Can, the book contains many different pieces of art with each page divided into three columns. The top column contains a drawing or photograph (or computer-generated image) of an animal; the middle column contains text describing that creature; and the bottom column is blank save for a set of lines which indicate pathways for us to follow as we complete our journey through the maze. It’s clear that Pena has chosen these paths carefully and intentionally, but what we end up creating as readers is more complex than just following a line.

A major theme throughout Mazes is one of balance and symmetry, particularly between nature and technology – two things that are often at odds with

Marc Pena is a visual artist whose work has encompassed the design of maze books, a large-scale drawing of a maze, and a website that features his maze-themed art. He is also the founder of MazeWorks, an organization dedicated to the creation and distribution of labyrinths for public use.

The Mazeworks website features mazes designed by Pena as well as mazes drawn by visitors to the site. The site also features information on labyrinths, their history, and how to create your own labyrinth.

In 2008, Pena’s life was chronicled in the film Mazeland: The Life and Work of Marc Pena. The film follows Pena as he works on creating a massive drawing of a maze on an island in San Francisco Bay. The film also documents his efforts in creating a book based on drawings of mazes that he made as a child.

Pena lives in Oakland, California where he leads Maze Works workshops for children and adults; he also gives lectures about the history and meaning of mazes at schools and museums around the country.*

Many of the maze images on Marc Pena’s website are in the style of the “Puzzleworld” books by Ivan Moscovich (1921). Each maze is cut into a solid piece of wood and then painted with a monochromatic scheme. The mazes are composed of interlocking shapes, but because they are made from solid wood, there is no way to see through them. By design, this forces one to go only forward, which makes these mazes more difficult than they would be if they were transparent or hollowed out.

Tethered to a wall or curved around a room, these mazes create an immersive environment of repeating lines and shapes. Many of the wooden mazes are hung on the walls of museums or galleries and some are exhibited in art fairs. Mazes may also be used as installation pieces during gallery or museum exhibitions.

The first wooden maze was created in 1987 as part of a series Pena dubbed “Cub”. Pena has completed over 800 wooden mazes to date.”


Marc Pena’s work is a powerful and poetic expression of the complex and contradictory relationships between individuals, communities and institutions. His engagement with the life of his neighborhood, and the city beyond, has been a constant source of inspiration in his art and writing. We are pleased to present this blog as a forum for Marc’s ongoing reflection on his artistic practice and the issues that concern him.

Pena’s work is deeply rooted in San Francisco where he was born and raised. He has been collaborating with artists, activists and community groups since he was a teenager, producing art work in the service of social justice. His work has taken many forms: murals, billboards, canvases, installations, videos, books, newspapers and even prison cells. In all of his work Pena explores the intersections between language, images and symbols. He has produced hundreds of different projects that are critical commentaries on contemporary society it’s values and institutions.

The art blog will be updated regularly with texts from Pena’s essays, journals writings and poetry as well as news about upcoming events both at the MAM and other venues throughout the Bay Area. The blog also includes video interviews about Marc’s artistic practice conducted by Sergio de la Mora for SFMOMA’s Artist Video

The first part of the museum that we went to was the gift shop. There were paintings, sculptures, and drawings. The paintings and drawings were mostly of mazes. I was amazed that they didn’t get bored drawing all these different maze patterns.

I thought it would be interesting to make a giant maze pattern like one of Marc’s, but when I got home I realized just how difficult it is. I started off with a simple maze pattern, but then it got too confusing so I had to make an easier version. It took me a few days to finish it, but that’s only because I was working on other projects at the same time.

From the site:

My work is primarily concerned with the formal properties of visual space, color, and motion. I have a strong preoccupation with the creation of complex and ever-changing compositions that utilize a variety of materials, media, and methods.

Like my other work, this website is built in Flash MX by hand. The content is constructed using a custom program I’ve written that lets me create art collaboratively with others or alone.

My interests and practice are collectively referred to as Process Art, or sometimes Site Specific Art, because they rely heavily on location, scale and context as essential components in their execution.

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