Mark Ryden (American, b. January 20, 1963) is a well-known painter and illustrator who is affiliated with the Pop Surrealist movement. Born in Medford, OR, he is the son of Barbara and Keith Ryden, and he first made his living as a commercial artist from 1988 until 1998. During this time, Ryden designed a plethora of album covers for musical artists, including Aerosmith's "Love in an Elevator" and Michael Jackson's "Dangerous." His first solo show came out the same year in Pasadena, CA, and it was dubbed The Meat Show, because meat was used as a reoccurring theme in many of his works. At the end of his commercial artistic career, Ryden’s designs were used in Juxtapoz magazine, at the request of fellow artist Robert Williams (American, b.1943). The magazine was dedicated to "lowbrow art."
One reason Ryden's work garnered attention was that he chose to focus on subject matter that was rich with cultural connotation. He received his BFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, in 1987, and has since been featured in galleries and museums worldwide. His retrospective Wondertoonel was featured at the Frye Museum of Art in Seattle, WA, and at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, breaking attendance records at both galleries. The Tree Show opened in 2007 at the Michael Kohn Gallery in Los Angeles, CA, which displayed images of people and nature. One such painting, The Tree of Life, depicted a child-like princess atop a tree, with an eye wedged into the bark, and a skull resting at the base. It was included in an exhibit at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, CA, which showcased local artists who made an impact in the period since MOCA was founded in 1979.
Ryden was eventually named the "godfather of Pop Surrealism" by Interview Magazine, and continues to derive inspiration from mysterious elements, including skeletons, old toys, and religious paraphernalia. He married his longtime sweetheart in 2009, and has raised two children. Ryden currently lives in Eagle Rock, CA.