My Career Choice: Marsha Solomon – Artist and Poet

Marsha Solomon’s artwork and poetry are well known and loved by Woman Around Town’s audience. Marsha has had a decades-long relationship with the website, sharing her work with our readers.

After receiving a B.A. in Art from the University of Maryland, and doing graduate studies at the prestigious Maryland Institute of Art, Marsha worked as an art teacher in the Baltimore public schools, and also was a private instructor. Moving to the New York City,  Marsha studied at the Art Students League and has worked as an artist in the are for 25 years.

“Tunnels in the Wood”

Marsha’s work has accumulated a wide audience after her exhibitions in galleries and museums in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. Her art has also been included in The New York Art Review and NY Arts Magazine.

Those who have followed Marsha’s work on Woman Around Town have seen her work evolve, from large abstract works, returning to realism with an extensive series of still-life on both canvas and paper. For inspiration, Marsha cites a diverse group of sources, from Japanese woodblock prints, the color and linear flow in Matisse’s work, and still-life compositions from Dutch genre paintings through Cézanne.

“From Rhythm to Form”

When did you first know that you wanted to be an artist? Did you color or paint as a child? 

I wanted to be a painter since I was a child. I drew and painted constantly. My parents were always encouraging, and I had early private lessons at home. A little later, I attended the Maryland  Institute of Art. I was admitted early and was the youngest in the class by several years. Even then, I knew that this was my career choice and what I was meant to do, my life’s calling.

Was there someone who inspired you early on to pursue art? 

My parents provided a very cultural environment. They took me to museums and concerts, drove me to classes, and not only encouraged me but helped me pursue my dream. 

How did your decision to concentrate on painting come about? 

I’ve studied many disciplines in art, like sculpture, jewelry making, and printmaking, but it was always painting and drawing that best suited me. The ability to draw came naturally to me, and I was also encouraged by teachers, friends, family, and other artists. Painting is all about color and design which appeal to me immensely, and studying the work of masters in books and museums inspired me to try to perfect my painting.


How did you approach your work while a college student and then a graduate student? 

I studied both art and art education at The University of Maryland, to be able to teach for a living early on. The art world is competitive, and one can’t be sure of income right away – or even at all. I took all the art classes that were available to me in college even though they weren’t required. After earning my degree I went back to the Maryland Institute of Art for graduate studies; it’s one of the best art schools in the country. Then, when I moved to New York, I went to the Art Students League, another extraordinary school with amazing instructors and students. All those interactions taught me a great deal. 

You worked as an art teacher in the public schools in Baltimore. What was that experience like?

Yes. I taught in the beginning of my career. I worked in two elementary schools in the suburbs of Baltimore. It was a great, but busy and a tiring experience, because I was in charge of all the grades in two schools. It was a lot to handle!  The most enjoyable part was seeing how free and inventive the children were in their expressions. Picasso once said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”  

“Poetry of Nature”

While your paintings take many forms, what comes through is your love of color. Talk about how that lifts your work to another level.

Color is the key for me in painting! In all my work color is the quintessential element.

In my early still life paintings titled “Tapestries” I used intricately woven fabrics and objects collected from around the world, brightly colored glass, and antique ceramics arranged and painted in meticulous detail, but joining into one unified form. In my large abstract works, “From Rhythm To Form,” four or five colors join with many techniques – pouring, textures and all kinds of marks – again create a unified form. I hope it takes the viewer to an imaginary place. I call them landscapes of my imagination. In my new abstractions, I’ve been fascinated with the night sky and images of nebulae, planets and star formations, finding new colors and forms. 

At the same time, I’ve been drawing with pen and ink, developing a portfolio called “The Edge of Color” in which realism and abstraction come together. I always wanted to blend my love for abstraction and my desire for drawing from life into one discipline, and this portfolio was my way in. I use colors, collage, pieces of text and lines drawn from life, but designed in a free way to arrive at the composition I want. This new step is exciting for me in my work.

“The Concert”

When you face a blank canvas, do you already have an idea of what you will paint? Where do those ideas come from? 

I always have an idea before I start. For my series “The Edge of Color” I spend a whole day setting up a still life composition on my table and use the lines and shapes that I see for the sketch, but then I transform it into an abstract rendering. I also go out in the garden to draw. Nature and all its elements are always a big part of my ideas for my work. Ideas also come from the poetry I write. Wherever I start, I let my imagination flow. Sometimes, surprises evolve, and I let them, and I choose what to keep. I’ve been painting for a long time, and I’ve come to the point where all ideas are viable – what I see and feel and experience. When I paint, the journey is always flowing and evolving as I go.

You are also a poet. Talk about how your poems and artwork come together. What comes first? 

Poetry and painting, for me, are two faces of the same coin. When I write, I feel that I am painting in words. The words then become an image that I paint to complement the poem. Both are inspired by feelings of the place in which I am and how it shapes me as a person dealing with challenges, joys, and the people I love and share life with. 

Your works have been exhibited in many places. Does one exhibition stand out in your memory as being a turning point? 

I’ve exhibited nationally and internationally in galleries, arts centers, museums and universities for years.  I’ve had solo and group shows and won awards for my art.  But my first major exhibition in Chelsea will always be the most vivid in my mind. I was invited to join Able Fine Art, directed by Michelle Yu.  She has galleries in both New York and Seoul, South Korea. That show, and seeing my work in one of the best galleries, with the crowd and excitement of Manhattan was a major turning point for me. I’ve had numerous shows with them and they’ve taken my work to art fairs around the world. But, I’ll never forget that first New York opening. There were people lined up, waiting to come in. A famous videographer came in and filmed it. It was listed in all the papers and art magazines. It was definitely a turning point!

What would you say to someone wanting to be an artist but who might be worried about making a living in the art world? 

Be focused on what you want to accomplish, and don’t get discouraged if things don’t go right from the start. Be determined and professional, and learn from others. It’s good to have an alternate way of making a living. But, the most important thing in life is to follow your dream and enjoy the journey wherever it may take you.

Photo and artwork courtesy of Marsha Solomon

To see more of Marsha’s work, go to her website.