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A Conversation In Movement: The Drawings of Marianne

Goldberg

By Marianne Goldberg, Ph.D.

This conversation is a self-reflection. It is a personal dialogue the author is


having with herself about the process, inspiration and engagement she has with
the stillness, movement and time in her drawings. This conversation and the
drawings referred to is a dance — a figural movement through space and time.

There is no one way to look at these works. Meanings are fluid


between literal figures that emerge and then dissolve or shift into other
contexts, mingling and pairing with the different abstract images. This
motion is similar at times to chordal structures in music, with melody
and rhythm unfolding in time, or like a developing play of poetic words
built up onto the paper into phrasings of language.

The overall fluidity of your work makes me wonder whether there is


movement involved during the creative process. What are your
sources?

I can speak to the inspiration through movement in this current


most series of work, which I began two years ago and which to date
contains fourteen major strands. These works have emerged
primarily of two sources; the first of which is from choreography and
the next from the stillness and movement, which stem from in-
depth meditation. I warm up with these two forms and then begin
preparing my arms for ink drawing. I continue by pouring the
sensations of greatest curiosity onto the paper. As I perceive forms
appearing, I begin outlining them to accentuate their identity. At
the same time I follow their lead into a new realm of color, shape,
volume, line, language and gesture. Often the new images are
transforming in front of me just as I can grasp them. This process is
all taking place within an arising environment, some of which is
comprised of images that emerge imaginatively or abstractly, and
others literally and quite recognizably.
Can you speak more about how choreography inspires your process of
working, and how this overlays perhaps with other sources such as
language, which we see written in your work?

This way of working is inspired by years of choreographic


exploration as well as by play with linguistics and poetry on
expanses of paper. With fluid ink, I begin to “choreograph” images
or words into the paintings, which otherwise I might have invented
in actual stage or environmental spaces. Whether across distances,
upon ocean beaches or across a proscenium stage, I have for years
envisioned and realized human motion within its environmental or
architectural contexts. Now I have begun to do the same across the
center, or periphery, or in the corners of the paintings in these
series. The play with language is also evident in these areas of the
paper and in the various series (or strands), which are as follows:
Sky Blue Light; New Face From Chicago (Angel); Rivulets Dancing;
(Rivulets Walking; Rivulets Swimming; ) Far Out in Mom’s Back
Gardens; Sand Petals; Five Generations of Living; Hand of Light;
Places of Flight; Prayer, Shalom; Swan Boat Mists; Aqua Sea, Rose
Shoulder; Sea Horses, We Believe; Moons Reflecting Upon Light,
Across Water, Upon Faces; Ocea; Rejoicing!

The play and relationship of the language in the titles with the
image content is something that I hope to leave open for the viewer
to experience. The openings provide a space and time initially free
from defined meanings, which the viewer can fill in with individual
response to the work. Similarly, within a particular painting I do
work to provide an opening between the many images that then
may begin to coincide together according to the viewers’ interests
and ways of seeing. Within this process I invite the viewers to
“read” the images in the sequences and rhythms of their own
perception.
How do you perceive these works?

Sometimes, as I perceive the environments and the abstract and


literal images, they do seem to come alive, as if real beings are
actually living within the frame of each painting. I see new things
every time and sometimes as I let my eyes relax into a defined yet
soft focus, the inflections do become crystal clear. I hope for the
viewer similar kinds of visual and linguistic insights.

There is no one way to look at these works. Meanings are fluid


between literal figures that emerge and then dissolve or shift into
other contexts, mingling and pairing with the different abstract
images. This motion is similar at times to chordal structures in
music, with melody and rhythm unfolding in time, or like a
developing play of poetic words built up onto the paper into
phrasings of language.

In many of your works, there is a sensation upon viewing them of a


condensing of time, as if you have taken a whole performance and
placed it on one piece of paper, or a whole film and shown it in one
frame. Is this intentional?

I do intentionally “layer” my works, sometimes as many as six or


seven layers of ink in one piece. Each layer I do put through a
printmaking process and begin the next layer onto the newer print.
For me, this does lead to a sensation of one work comprised of
many sequenced layers of time. These reveal themselves while
viewing throughout a passage of time, with many changes within
the single “frame” of each work.

Can you give an example of the application of layers in your work?

Most of my work contains multiple layers of inks applied to a paper


surface and then printed and then applied again to the new surface.
This process might occur up to six or seven times as it does, for
instance, in New Face From Chicago (Angel). There is a ground base
image of a brownstone building. The five-story building holds
imprints of several layers of faces of angelic form and yet another
layer of one human face, which transforms from two windows of the
building into two eyes of a new person.

How are the layers built?

The layers are created by “painting” with inks and the alternating
with successive paintings in between additional applications of ink. I
often perceive them as translucent to one another or as embossed
onto pre existing images of landscape or architecture. Especially
when seen in certain lighting, I might see several human faces
appear under wing of the angel in that piece, seeming to be further
back in depth into the painting than the surface image of the
brownstone.

Does a similar perception occur in your landscape works?

Yes, often images of mountains transform into human faces or


children running, or horses galloping forward, as in Rivulets,
Dancing. These layers I perceive one after another through a process
of time unfolding as I softly gaze at the image. As the shapes and
forms come into reference, I observe more specifically. For the
viewer, or audience member of this work, these phases in time are
offered along with a kind of three dimensionality in space. One
image almost always carries the gaze either further back or forward
into the depth or surface of the painting.

You have mentioned a number of ways that you view your own work.
Would you suggest that the audience follow along these paths as
well?

I invite people to look in these ways, or other ways, to find the


connotations that emerge between multiple images and to put them
together in fresh ways in their own imaginations.
I do not want the images to be just about my emotions in particular.
In the audiences’ perceptions they may relate to my works as part of
a human experience that varies for each. Anatomical, geographical,
architectural, emotional: what are any of these? They are different
for each person. I want these experiences, in their unique
differences, to be available in my works for each person. As each
approaches and enters them, not only in the visual aspects of the
work, but also in its kinesthetic, physical, rhythmic, spatial, and
linguistic aspects, I do hope that feeling emerges and leads the
viewer to new realms.

This is a process that does take some time being with the work, time
spent as with a kind of visual poetry when images may free float
between one another to lead to new connections and explorations.

Are there particular areas of explorations throughout for you?

Specific environments, especially the ocean here on Martha’s


Vineyard and the sandy cliffs of Chilmark. These are parallel
environments to a place I grew up in the Midwest. The series
Rivulets bridges both of those. There is a branch of a river that I
used to walk along with my Dad that reminds me of the
underground streams that I imagine to run through the aqua-
terrestrial geology of the soil, clay, and sand of the bluffs. Walking
and talking together, or walking and not talking, along the water,
with the changing quality of light, at locations as we pass by: shapes
I see in Vineyard or Illinois sand and clouds have become images
that I draw as precisely as possible at times, or else they have
transformed into sources for flights of imagination.

What brings forth the mask-like figures?

Carnival-like faces sometimes emerge to transport the viewer to


another realm of fantasy and delight. The faces represent the ability
to change perception on a major scale, both personal and cultural.
Perhaps they also are catalysts, or a kind of vehicle, for time and
space travel within the paintings. They often come from a desire to
cheer up someone I love.
Can you further describe your process of perception while viewing or
creating your work?

As I am looking at one of the paintings while it first emerges, a


number of “scenes” go by, as if the image is shifting. If I do not try
to grasp the image, and rather let my eye go wherever it is drawn,
one or more areas may appear to flicker and become three
dimensional within the two dimensional plane. I often choose to
follow one of the places in a piece that seem to travel back into the
work, in depth.
Also, most works may be viewed from any of 360 degree
orientations so that “up side down” may become “right side up” by
rotating the frame. As I view the image, I turn the paper as I do
while painting it. When people comment that each completed work
is often experienced as if a single movie or an entire story, I think of
how it evolves and comes into view over substantial moments of
time while observing.

I’ve noticed that at times you do not use glass to protect your images
- is there a reason for this?

Yes. Although I am aware that glass and framing protects the work,
to ensure greater permanence, yet the additional reflective surface
may also act as a barrier to the viewer. Life is full of impermanence.
The worry has been expressed that the images might degrade
through the process of being hung and observed without glass,
when people desire to touch surfaces. For me, this concern is
overcome by a strong desire to frame my images without glass
because I wish the life in them to be available to view, both close
up and at a distance.
Like a live performance, these art works also can happen in the
present moment. As the work is approached, I want this sense of
liveliness to be able to occur such that viewers will see something
different each time. The images are entirely fresh and more sensual
and alive, without the glass in the way to interfere by dispersing the
reflected image around the space.
I am still researching how this sense of aliveness may be protected
when works are shown on the computer screen. It is as if the images
live inside the screen and become visible when the computer is
turned on. The backlit aspect of the light, while permeating the
forms onscreen, does help the image glow. For the gallery I am
exploring ways to hang the image away from the walls so light and
air may move through them as well. Some of the most valuable
things in life are those that are impermanent, such as dancing,
choreographing, special moments with people, and many live
experiences, which are unrepeatable and different each time.

How does this liveliness apply to your landscapes, which often appear
to be so effervescent?

In observing the ocean, cliffs, impressions in sand, waves, birds


diving, the entire “movie or story” at one moment constantly
changes. The textures inspired by these locations are more available
to discern without glass. It is as if the “skin” or outer layer of the
images is visible kinesthetically. I am in love with aerial views of
Martha’s Vineyard and Chilmark, with huge desires to jump over the
bluffs and roll down to the waves. These are human experiences and
wishes, different for each person, yet possible for each to say “I’ve
experienced aspects of that journey also.”