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Votes

Helping the Earth With Art

Marian Osher, a Potomac resident, will have artwork displayed in her solo show "Earth Matters" at the Washington Printmakers Gallery,

1732 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, DC. An opening reception will be Friday, Sept. 7 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. and Sunday, Sept, 9 from 2-4 p.m. Call 202-332-7757 or visit www.washingtonprintmakers.com.

Who are your major influences?

I have been fortunate to have three wonderful art mentors. Faye Sherry (Montgomery Blair High School) encouraged me to explore my creativity and make my own creative decisions. Frank Wright (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 (Montgomery College) taught me to combine skills and playfulness with my art.

My mother and my son Josh have also been major influences. My mother Ruth Siskind was a talented poet who "painted pictures" of nature with words. My son Josh inspired me to search for a deeper understanding of my connection with nature and to become an activist.

Who are your major art influences?

I have many artists that I appreciate, but I don't try to emulate the style of another artist. I would say that some of my favorites include Van Gogh, Georgia O'Keefe, Marc Rothko, Richard Diebenkorn, Jasper Johns and Vija Celmins.

When did you first get inspired to create art? Did you always know that you wanted to be an artist?

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 shapes of the tops of the buildings as they create jagged lines against the sky and the colorful patterns of people moving in different directions. I had double vision, until I had an eye operation at age 4. My mother told me that my kindergarten teacher expressed concern because I drew with black crayons. The shapes of things were exciting to me because I could finally see them. Of course, as my art evolved, I came to enjoy working with color.

Becoming an artist has been an evolutionary process. At one point I planned to teach in the public schools, then I worked as an illustrator and as a graphic designer. But I was always called back to making creative art.

Concurrent to my work as an artist, I also teach private students and provide guidance and instruction for developing college art portfolios. I enjoy working one-on-one, because it allows for flexibility, individualized instruction, and helping another person to launch their own creative path. I value the connection with some of my students that continues beyond the lessons, as with my own artistic mentors.

What is the motif of the show? What is special about it?

Earth Matters highlights a diverse range of environmental issues including global warming, threatened bio-diversity, forest destruction, mountaintop removal, and light and noise pollution. Literature from environmental groups will also be available at the gallery for viewers who want to learn more about these problems and what they can do to help. There will also be a binder with fact sheets and news articles. I will be giving two free talks at the Washington Printmakers Gallery that will focus on the issues, the artwork, techniques and the role that art can play in raising consciousness about environmental issues. (Sunday, Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. and Wednesday, Sept. 19 at 12 p.m.). What is special to me about this show is that it is entirely focused on the environment and reaching out through art. All of the artwork in Earth Matters was created with water-soluble media.

How did this motif come about?

A news article, "Warming Tied to Extinction of Frog Species" by Juliet Eilperin, (Washington Post, Jan. 12, 2006) and five years of activism with the Buffalo Field Campaign both onsite in Montana and on Capital Hill in DC motivated me to expand my knowledge about environmental issues.

Other news articles, books, exploration on the web, attending lectures, and volunteering at an animal rights conference in Washington, DC broadened my education and deepened my commitment. In particular, I would like to mention "Frogs a Chorus of Colors" by John and Deborah Behler, "The Empty Ocean" by Richard Ellis, "The Wildfire Reader" edited by George Wuerthner, "Clearcut – The Tragedy of Industrial Forestry" edited by Bill Duvall, "An Inconvenient Truth" by Al Gore, "Silence" by Christina Feldman, and "Reason for Hope" by Jane Goodall.

I feel a calling to express my concern and use my art as an aesthetic vehicle for helping to raise awareness of environmental red flags. Awareness, concern and action are the pathways to preserving life on this planet.

Where do you do most of your work? Do you prefer a bedroom, studio, outside, lot of light, little light, etc?

I have two studios in my home, the entire basement and one room on the second floor of our house. The basement studio has plenty of space to spread out for making paintings or prints. I like to work out ideas, concepts and related writing in the intimate space of the studio upstairs. I also like to look out the window at the trees. Sometimes I work on the deck outside. I really like my "commute" of 15 or 30 feet.

What do you listen to when you work? Is it reflected in the work you create?

I definitely have a creative partnership with music. While I create art, I listen to a wide range of music, including rock, blues, jazz, bluegrass, country, soul, Native American and spiritual music. I am a big fan of Pink Floyd. I am both energized and calmed as I explore the connection between my evolving art and music. I tune in to the rhythms and "vibrations" of a wide range of music to enhance the "letting go process" that leads me to feel intuitive color choices. When I am doing research, reading, writing or brainstorming visual ideas, I like silence.

Favorite medium to use and why?

My chosen media are all water-soluble. For printmaking, I work with Tombo acid-free brush/pens, Stabilo Tone pencils, and Caran D'ache crayons. The printing plate is reusable mylar, Plexiglas or recycled mat board. I draw and paint directly on the plate until I am satisfied with the image. Dampened paper is laid on top of the plate, which is then printed by hand or with my etching press to yield one print. I color the plate again to create a new variation or a different image for the next print. For painting I work with acrylic paint and media. All of these media are odorless and clean up easily and quickly with water.

What do you hope viewers get out of the art show?

It is my hope that my environmental art (eco art) will deepen the viewer's personal connection with the importance of living in harmony with non-human creatures and the natural resources of our only earth.

Any local community influences in your work?

Construction, disappearing trees, diminishing open spaces, and wildlife making more frequent and perilous appearances in our neighborhoods and on roadsides are certainly influences. I love to observe wildlife, but it is upsetting to know that they are losing their natural habitats. It is sometimes difficult to hear the birds, or to have a quiet moment outside of our own homes when we are bombarded by the sounds of traffic, cell-phones, lawnmowers, and leaf blowers. I am also aware that many of the stars that I used to see have been dimmed by light pollution.

Favorite art work (either own or someone else's):

I do not have a single favorite work of art. I like to view artwork that gives me new insights, visual and emotional experiences. Exposure to a variety of art in museums, galleries, and the process of exploring my own art helps me to grow as a person and as an artist. I enjoy texture, color and movement.

If this is your first solo event, how do you feel hosting your first solo art exhibit? If not how is this one different from others?

Earth Matters is my 11th solo exhibition. My first solo show "Relativity," was my visual response to my mother's poetry. The first solo show felt both magical (am I really having a solo show?) and poignant, because it occurred during the first year after my father's death.

Many of my mother's poems expressed her love of nature. Sadly, my mother, who was one of my best friends, and my creative cheerleader, died in 2005. Earth Matters is dedicated to her memory, and one of her poems will hang on the wall with the artwork.

In 2001, "Connections" explored the universal connections of diverse cultures and spirituality using the mandala as the unifying vehicle. My 2004 solo show "Vibes," was inspired by relationship between kaleidoscopes and music, as metaphors about change, acceptance and new opportunities for growth.

Each solo show begins at least a couple of years before the artwork hangs on the wall. I think about what I would like to learn about and explore creatively. Since I will be working with a particular theme for a long time, I want it to be focused and cohesive, and yet expansive and open. I want to gain new insights and grow as a person while developing concepts and images to share with the viewers. I also want to have fun and enjoy the journey.

After the concept and sketching stage, which can take me in surprising directions, I start to make the artwork that I will hang. Sometimes, one idea may not work out, but will lead to a new variation or direction. I am OK with that. Art for me is about exploration, so trial and error is part of the process.

How do I feel about this solo show Earth Matters?

I feel very energized about it. I have learned a lot about environmental issues and feel that the message of this body of work is an important one. If even one person walks out of the gallery feeling more connected to any of these issues, than I will feel that this show is a success.

Where else can people see your art?

At the current time, after participating in several group shows in NY this summer, my work can be seen at the Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1732 Connecticut Ave, NW, Washington, DC www.washingtonprintmakers.com. My mandala art, kaleidoscope art, eco art, and other paintings can also be seen on my website www.marianosher.com.

Any future shows coming?

I will have my first solo show in New York City at the Ceres gallery in Chelsea in March 2008. "Dream Quest" will be an exhibition of colorful paintings and large wall hangings inspired by dream catchers and painted buffalos. The art will explore universal connections between human spirituality, the non-human animal world and harmony with the environment.