MEET SONOMA COUNTY ARTIST MARSHA CONNELL
As a child, Marsha Connell began drawing with her grandfather, Samuel Riss, a farmer and watercolor painter, in Upstate New York. This is where her early love for art, the environment, and learning was ignited and nurtured.
Now, as a long-time resident of Sonoma County, Marsha is a painter of inner and outer worlds, which she expresses through landscape, still life, and figurative imagery using oils, watercolors, and pastels.
Marsha paints contemporary landscapes on location, and then blends interior and exterior elements by combining still life with landscapes.
“My seemingly spontaneous painting is grounded by a committed drawing practice, evidenced by shelves and drawers of my sketchbooks, drawing pads and pages,” she explained.
One of her most memorable teachers at Skidmore College, New York, was Arnold Bittleman. He created monumental drawings, mark by mark, with a fine crow quill pen. “If you choose the right thing, it will teach you how to draw,” he said.
While proficient in painting, Marsha also developed a unique process for creating collages. These mixed-media, “Dream Vessels,” collages evoke deeper psychological and emotional feelings. They were inspired by a daughter who said, “When you think about me in Israel, try not to surround me with worry … why don’t you make a collage?”
Marsha’s response to that was 25 years of making “Dream Vessels,” a series of healing collages.
Marsha’s paintings are a dance in color, as well as a moving meditation in the landscape.
“I combine observation — mirroring the natural world — with improvisation — giving voice to the ‘spirit of place,’ in dialogue with the moods of my inner landscape,” she said.
Through watching, listening, hiking, dancing, and trusting intuition, she infuses her painterly representation with energetic gestures and abstract sensibility.
After moving from Pennsylvania to Santa Rosa in 1974, Marsha continued a practice of figure drawing and painting in her studio. Gathering inspiration from hiking the hills and coast of Sonoma County, and drawing in barns and gardens, led her to placing the figure into the landscape. She then began merging the figure with the landscape, eventually drawing and painting the landscape embodied as the figure.
Having once spent an intensive month of daily painting outdoors in New Mexico with colorist painter, Wolf Kahn, Marsha’s passion for working en plein air was re-kindled by a Pepperwood Foundation grant at Pepperwood Preserve in Santa Rosa.
For her “This gift of quiet and focused time — wandering the preserve, drawing, painting, and writing, while hiking, or in one spot for hours at a time — allowed my imagination to take wing with raptors on invisible currents, and prepare a fertile inner ground for musing about life and art. While interacting with SRJC scientist-colleagues we discovered our mutual commitment to deep observation, and to sharing the joy and solace we find in nature.”
Collaborations with other artists, dancers, musicians, poets, and scientists lead to her involvement in performances and installations, as well as joyful and serious investigations and experimentation.
In her current work, Marsha is exploring the meeting places of painting and collage, art and science, abstraction and closely observed realism — while working in her studio, and at favorite Sonoma County locations. She is now, “Stirring the pot, and preparing for new ingredients and journeys.”
Places where you can see work by Marsha Connell:
Santa Rosa Junior College, Petaluma Campus, Herold Mahoney Library
Pepperwood Preserve: Paintings by Marsha Connell
January 15 through March 26
A lecture with the artist will be held on Feb. 2, 12 to 1 p.m.
680 Sonoma Mountain Parkway, Petaluma
Sebastopol Center for the Arts
Wetlands: ever changing waters, land and life,
Through Feb. 20
282 S. High Street, Sebastopol. www.sebarts.org
Art Trails Gallery at Corrick’s, 637 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa
- Marsha Connell
- Mt. St. Helena, oil on canvas
- Warmth of Autumn, oil on canvas