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 in galleries and museums 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 subconscious 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 RISD education prepared me for a lifetime of learning, and it is through years of looking, reading and working that I understand that the pursuit never ends.  It hasn’t always been easy, though.  A car accident 18 years ago left me with serious injuries, including a broken neck, which put my career on hold for some years. Although I have had to adapt to working with physical impairments, I was able to resume painting in 2012, and it is from that point that my current work has evolved.

Occasionally I am asked why I paint so flat and with such precision. (I use tape).  The practical  reason is that because of nerve damage, I no longer have the same dexterity and control in my hands and have had to find a way that works for me.  Another reason is to challenge viewers to recognize that behind that flat surface are many cerebral decisions concerning illusions of form, depth and light that years of trial and error experience make look effortless and believable.  I want people to consider and appreciate 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 a finished product. 

Although my ideas derive from personal observations, it 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