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Plattsburgh State Art Museum
The Joseph C. and Joan T. Burke Gallery
Channeling Ghosts: Marion Wagschal Paints the Figure
October 1 through November 13, 2005
Open Daily noon to 4pm, except Holidays
Artist's Statement
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Portrait of My Father, 1971
watercolor on paper, 12.5" x 19.5"
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Her paintings have an interrogatory mood. She has an uncanny knack for capturing psychological truth about the myriad ways we live now—alone or with others—but also with capturing (and unerringly) postural truth.

My father and mother left Europe for Trinidad during the Second World War, where I spent the first nine years of my life. The southern hemisphere, with it’s lush colours, vibrant presence of nature, and accelerated processes of transformation, typifies the Tropic of Capricorn. Somehow this intense version of living and dying strongly influenced my painting, in concert with the melancholy, insecurity, great hope, and the rage to live, of my displaced parents.

One of my earliest loves is for detail, engendered by doing embroidery as a child . The detail, being gendered and classed, offered associations with labour intensivity, and activities traditionally connected with women--a way to mark a link in my work. I could have chosen candlelight to paint images of friends, acquaintances and models; sometimes there seems little choice regarding perception, conditioned as we are by history, individual, collective and organic. I am a painter of high-light and inner feeling resulting in “vision,” the crystallizing of a mass of information bracketed by emotion and thinking in an image, a single iconic image to contain the thoughts, stories, or silence of the persons and couples who have been drawn to me, and who compel me strongly enough to do a painting, when the chemistry allows togetherness for innumerable hours. Somewhat like soap operas and their impossible plots, time lines for painting interest me. Recording the lives of some sitters over a similarly extended period conveys the swirl of thoughts, feelings and experiences in the intertwinement of painter and sitter.

A dialogue exists between pre-existing representations and my own. That conversation with art history is evident, stylistically and iconographically throughout, allowing me to embed personal lived experience within the context of the past, and represent these references from a formal and historical perspective. As a painter, I am interested in the heroic, used in an ironic sense, to record and honour individuals and what is revealed through an involved interaction or brief encounter. The grandeur and banality of the ordinary, the pain of it. Is it possible to do figurative work which is significant for today’s world? Is the personal relevant, a microcosm of the culture?

To reveal the way one thinks in a pictorial sense, just to observe, record the complexity of living, the politics of it, the need for connection, tactility, meaning, delight, is a privilege. As a sensuous medium which contains meaning embedded in pleasure, painting embodies a metaphor of mind, body and spirit. Planned or unplanned, it is a revelatory process leading to exaltation and reflection at its best and has sustained my interest and passion for most of my life.

Marion Wagschal

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Last Updated: September 28, 2005