New York street scenes and food, clothes for sale hanging on lines and a neon bar sign–these are a few of the images depicted in the artwork of Marian Osher, a painter and printmaker. Marian was born in Philadelphia and has lived most of her life in Maryland. She enjoys working in her studios in Maryland and near the Delaware seashore. She received her BA (University of Maryland) and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Printmaking (George Washington University) and has had twenty-two solo shows, including one scheduled for March 2016 at Ceres Gallery in New York. Her artwork has been shown in numerous group exhibitions in the U.S., and in international shows in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Germany, Italy, India, Russia, and China.
Marian is included in the Green Art Guide and the Women Environmental Artist’s Directory. The Environmental Defense Fund chose her artwork for the cover of their Pocket Seafood Selector in 2007, which helps consumers to make environmentally sound seafood choices. Additionally, her work is included in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress, National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires, Argentina, among others. Marian is represented by the Washington Printmakers Gallery in Washington, DC, Ceres Gallery in New York, Gallery 50 Contemporary Art and the Philip Morton Gallery in Delaware and the The Blank Slate Gallery in Florida.
Moreover, Marian is a private art instructor and consultant, as well as a guide for college art portfolio development. Despite her busy schedule and many incredible successes, Marian took the time to speak with the Examiner about her experiences being an artist:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): How and when did you decide to become an artist?
Marian Osher (M.O.): I had double vision until I had an eye operation at age four. With “new eyes”, I delighted in a world of vision where I could see the single shapes of all things. And then I began to draw. That was probably the beginning of becoming an artist. Art has been a common thread throughout my lifetime since I was a very young child. I have always been a visual person. When I walk in the woods, I notice the texture of bark, see faces in trees, and delight in the colors and patterns of rocks. In the city, I enjoy reflections in windows, the ragged edge of a city skyline, abstractions on construction walls and sidewalks, and colorful patterns of people moving in different directions.
M.M.: Growing up, which artists/types of art interested you?
M.O.: As an artist and as a person, I continue to grow and evolve. So I hope I will never finish growing up. I was fortunate to have four wonderful art mentors who influenced my decision to become an artist. Faye Sherry, my teacher at Montgomery Blair HS encouraged me to explore my creativity and make my own creative decisions. Frank Wright of George Washington University, taught me how to draw, to explore my subject without limits, and how to build a cohesive body of artwork. Giswav Sikora of Montgomery College taught me to combine skills and playfulness with my art. Robert Cohen, also Montgomery College, introduced me to the joy of painting. Another major influence was my mother, Ruth Siskind, a talented poet who “painted pictures” with her words. Two of my earliest solo shows were directly inspired by her poetry. Studying art history at the University of Maryland broadened my appreciation for a variety of artists. I appreciate art that speaks to me, regardless of the style or artist. I love the colors and textures of Van Gogh’s paintings, the energy of Henry Moore’s drawings, the layered rhythms of Jackson Pollack’s paintings and the power and spirituality of Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings.
M.M.: How would you describe your work and what inspires it?
M.O.: Like a river running through my life, my art continues to take new directions, influenced and inspired by my life’s experiences. Whether figurative or more abstract, I enjoy experimenting with painting, mixed media and printmaking. I like to listen to music when working in my studio to enhance the process of letting go that leads to intuitive color choices. I usually work thematically on a body of artwork that provides new insights and opportunities for personal growth. Three solo shows about Manhattan were inspired by ten years of frequent travel to NY. A safari in Africa inspired an exhibition about endangered wildlife in Tanzania. Recovery from artist’s block, ten months before a solo show, resulted in the creation of over fifty multi-level monotype prints on painted canvas. I was returning home from Amsterdam on September 11, 2001. Our flight was diverted to Halifax. I didn’t fly again for three years. Creating the paintings for “Fearless Flying” helped me to overcome this anxiety, and now I am able to fly anywhere in the world! Multiple volunteer experiences as a volunteer in the Buffalo Field Campaign led to the creation of exhibitions that highlighted various environmental issues and the plight of the Yellowstone Buffalo. “Vibes” explored the relationship between kaleidoscopic images and music. A life-changing, self-directed spiritual journey inspired solo shows of mandalas, labyrinths and chakras.
M.M.: How did you go about getting into galleries?
M.O.: You can find out a lot about a gallery online. You can learn what type of work the gallery is interested in and the quality of the artwork that is shown there, as well as view the resumes of the artists. But getting into galleries is also about footwork and networking. I visit galleries and go to shows. I look for galleries that are a good match for my work and build relationships with the gallerists.
M.M.: You are a DC artist with a show coming up in New York. How did that happen? How many states/countries have you shown in?
M.O.: “New York Revealed, Stirring the Melting Pot” will be my 5th solo show in New York, and my 22nd solo show overall. I started coming almost monthly to New York more than ten years ago. I have spent a lot of time exploring and learning about the city. What I love about New York is its diversity. It is the blending of cultures that best expresses New York’s character. I am fascinated by its ethnic foods, the treasure trove of little known landmarks, neighborhoods, parks, industry, city walls, and even the trash! I hope that this exhibition of twenty-eight paintings makes a visual statement about the importance of preserving the ethnic diversity that makes New York vibrant, flavorful and exciting! In these troubling times of controversy about immigration, I feel that it is especially important to remember that our families were once immigrants too. My art has been exhibited on five continents and ten countries, including the US.
M.M.: Do you have a favorite piece? If so, which one and why?
M.O.: My favorite piece is usually the one that I am working on. Making art is like a creative dance. Sometimes I get my toes stepped on. After the excitement of the idea settles into the work, I might be struggling with an unresolved area of a painting. A new technique might cause me to stumble, but if I work through the process and the problems, I get into the flow of the work. Then the joy of creating takes over, and I love the one I’m with!
M.M.: What are your mediums of choice?
M.O.: For many years, I was a stone lithographer working with oil based inks, creating editions of lithographs. However, since the year 2000, I made a decision to work with environmentally friendly water soluble media. As a painter, I work with acrylic paint and mediums. In printmaking, I create monotypes and monoprints, working with a variety of water soluble media. I also like mixed-media, combining painting and printmaking in the same artwork, and sometimes adding photography, sand, shells or other materials that add texture and dimension to the work.
M.M.: Are there any mediums that you haven’t worked with yet but hope to soon?
M.O.: That depends upon where my art muse tells me to go. Sometimes ideas pop into my head along with a different approach to using the media. Then I start to experiment and recombine the media in the way that best suits and expresses that body of artwork.
M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding experience involving your artwork and/or being an artist?
M.O.: I feel that art has helped me to become a more spiritual person, enabling me to feel the connection that we have with each other and with all of nature. I am also grateful that art strengthens my appreciation for the infinite variety of colors and textures in our world. Making art enriches my life by pushing me to experiment, to take risks, and to have fun. But what also makes art rewarding for me is sharing it. We need art because it reminds us about the importance of connection. Art connects people to each other, to spirituality and to all of nature. Like music, and poetry, art can be a very powerful vehicle. Art can raise awareness and help create feelings of connection. The viewer can respond to the artwork from their own experiences. And that is OK.
M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to become an artist?
M.O.: Get a strong foundation in drawing and design. Learn to work with different art media. This is your base, no matter what kind of artist you become. These are tools that need to become second nature. Then you will never be limited in your artistic choices by not having skills or not being able to draw. Learn the rules first, and then break them. Be your own artist, not what someone else thinks you should be. Good writing skills are also important. You will have to write about your work and be able to talk about your work to promote it. Learn some business skills. Learn to work comfortably with your creative white space. Nobody will push the start button for you when your art classes end. Charting your own path means finding your own direction, and working through times when your creativity is blocked. Don’t give up. Most artists will experience this at one time or another. Just take a break, but don’t run away from your art. Your creativity will be recharged. Learn to enjoy the process of making art, not just focusing on the product. The process involves trial and error, but that does not make your work a failure. Every drawing and painting can be a learning experience and an opportunity for your growth as an artist.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
M.O.: “New York Revealed, Stirring the Melting Pot” opens at Ceres Gallery with a reception on Thursday March 3 from 6 to 8 PM. Please join me at the reception if you are in New York. If you can’t make the opening, come to the show during gallery hours. The exhibition dates are March 1 – 26, 2016.
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To learn more about Marian Osher visit her official website and blog. To learn more about her upcoming New York solo-show, see here.