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Art Maker: Marjorie Morgan, painter and printmaker

  • “Playing,” painting by Marjorie Morgan Image courtesy of Marjorie Morgan

  • “Amazon,” painting by Marjorie Morgan. Image courtesy of Marjorie Morgan

  • “Front Porch,” painting by Marjorie Morgan Image courtesy of Marjorie Morgan

  • Marjorie Morgan works at her studio in Greenfield. A former dancer and choreographer, she took up visual arts after a dancing injury. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Marjorie Morgan works at her studio in Greenfield. A former dancer and choreographer, she took up visual arts after a dancing injury. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Marjorie Morgan at her studio in Greenfield. A former dancer and choreographer, she took up visual arts after a dancing injury. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS


Friday, October 27, 2017

Up until 2011, Marjorie Morgan had spent many years in the world of dance and theater in the Boston area, creating work that combined elements of movement, live sound, music and text. But a serious injury during a performance led her to switch gears and take up painting and printmaking instead.

Morgan, 51, now lives and works in Colrain and also has a studio in Greenfield; she’s a member as well of Zea Mays Printmaking in Florence. Her work has been shown in several forums in the region, including in a month-long show at Northampton’s Oxbow Gallery in September.

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you’re currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve? 

Marjorie Morgan: I’m working on some large works on canvas and some very small watercolors. The watercolors are fast and instinctive … really fun, full of color. With the large pieces, I’m working with layers and layers of house paint. When it’s dry, the paint is kind of rubbery, so I’ve started using an X-acto knife and a putty knife to cut into and scrape and peel off different layers. It’s endlessly fascinating, revealing new forms and color combinations I never would have thought of. 

H.L.: What do you draw inspiration from? Do you ever have any “Eureka!” moments?

M.M.: I get really inspired by other artists and artwork. So I look at art books a lot, and I go to museums and galleries as often as I can.

“Eureka” moments: Once while looking at a Cezanne landscape in a museum, I noticed his brush strokes were the same for the sky as they were for the trees and the land. That blew me away, that he treated everything equally. It inspired me to start a painting practice I call “everything is equal.” It’s really hard, but when I have the focus and stamina to really paint like that, I get great results. 

H.L.: Have you ever had a “mistake” — a project that seemed to be going south — turn into a wonderful discovery instead?

M.M.: Several years ago, I was really stuck with a particular painting. I asked my wife (Whitney C. Robbins, also an artist) if she wanted to work on it. She took it to her side of the studio and worked on it, and then she passed it back. We kept passing it back and forth until it was completely changed and we were both happy with it. Since then, we’ve made dozens of these collaborative pieces — we call them “Woolly Mammoths.” 

H.L.: Name two artists you admire or who have influenced your work. What about their art appeals to you?

M.M.: Richard Diebenkorn and Helen Frankenthaler. First off, they were both total masters of color. And Diebenkorn painted both abstract and figurative works. I do that too, so it’s encouraging to see how obsessed he was with both of those types of work. And Frankenthaler? Wow. Her work is just so bold and powerful; the scale of her paintings is incredible. You feel like you are in them.

H.L.: If you weren't an artist, what do you think you'd be?

M.M.: Maybe an inventor of new recipes? A culinary inventor.

H.L.: Dream dinner party: Who would you invite?

M.M.: Michelle Obama, my wife, Bell Hooks, Pema Chödrön, Alice Walker and Patti Smith. My wife and I will cook (we love cooking). And I’ll videotape it for all my friends who’ll be mad we didn’t invite them. 

— Steve Pfarrer 

Marjorie Morgan’s website is marjoriemorgan.net; her art can also be seen on Instagram at @marjart.