Looking at art and working at making paintings have been my life's passions.  At the age of nine, I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art on a school trip.  Seeing paintings of such magnitude and importance created a lasting impression on me.  I was in awe of the fact that the flat two-dimensional surface of a painting could create the appearance of a physical reality.  Paintings telling the stories of historical events and the human condition, and their effects on society became the basis for my understanding part of the role of art.  Years later, I would come to understand the transformative power of work by painters such as Mark Rothko and Philip Guston. 

These passions led me to study at Rhode Island School of Design, (European Honors Program, BFA Painting, 1971), then Cranbrook Academy of Art, (Graduate Painting Program). After completing my MFA at Syracuse University, I remained in upstate New York for over 25 years, teaching studio art on the college level, and exhibiting throughout the Northeast.

Although my work has shifted from descriptive to abstract over the years, it has always been responsive to observations about the natural world and my environment, as well as to what I read, ranging from scientific articles to literary fiction. Drawing from these various influences helps me make connections between disparate elements that register over time in both my conscious and conscious memory.

Having spent decades exploring technical challenges, different physical approaches and issues of content and narrative, I have come back to embrace what initially drew me to painting: the illusion of three dimensional form and space created by composition and color.

My process begins with drawing, distilling ideas from an accumulation of notes and sketches.  For paintings, I have been using hard substrates, (currently, aluminum panel), applying multiple coats of acrylic paint as flatly as possible, to achieve a smooth, opaque, yet luminous surface.  My interest in making the paint surface as flat as possible is two-fold.  One comes from my desire to present a pure and direct experience between object and viewer, where the complexities I intend can be more easily contemplated.  The other is to challenge viewers to think about how the painting was made, to ponder and appreciate the process without clues, such as obvious brushstrokes.  So much work, creative or other, involves intense labor of mind and body that we don't necessarily see manifested in the finished product. 

Another characteristic of my work is the way color juxtapositions provide the illusion that shapes and forms appear transparent or translucent, creating ambiguous readings of space, structure, light and atmosphere.  In work dating from 2018, I introduced the use of non-rectangular shaped formats, focusing more on the illusion of form within form, and painting as object.   Although my ideas derive from personal observations,  i
t is my intention to inspire viewers to find connections to their own experiences.  It is the journey of making and discovering that sustains me, and is my way of preserving a personal history and set of memories. 

Marjorie Hellman
2022