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Robert Leroy Marshall
(Mesquite, Nevada, 1944 - 2016, Springville, Utah)
Robert Marshall was born in Mesquite, Nevada. He attended Brigham Young University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1966 and a Master of Arts in 1968. He began teaching soon after graduation at Fullerton College in California. In 1969, he moved to Utah to join the studio art faculty at B.Y.U.. He has served as Chairman of the Art Department for 12 years and as director of study abroad programs in London and in Madrid. Marshall believed that as a professor, he could give back to humankind some of what he had been given.
Marshall was an accomplished draftsman and is knowledgeable in color theory, filmmaking, and in contemporary art history. As a painter, he originally was best known for his watercolor landscapes, but after a time he felt the need to grow and progress, and he took a leave of absence from the university and began working in oils on large canvases. After that he explored painting his children and patterns and objects in his house, to a series of paintings of pottery, to a series combining pottery and fabric, he felt the need to add some rectangles and sharp edges to the ovals and the ellipses of the pots. He said he got very interested in the folds of the fabric, the paintings became like little landscapes to him. The next move, from painting fabric to actual landscapes, came naturally.
Bob Marshall, unlike some contemporary artists, was convinced “that the landscape tradition is still a viable option and has a justifiable place in contemporary painting.“ For Marshall, awareness of the intrinsic beauty of a particular location is always intensified through private rather than collective discovery. Quiet hikes into the landscape intensify our connection with the land in a way that standing on the periphery and observing the obvious can never accomplish.
In both his watercolors and his oils, Marshall shared his discoveries and invited us into his “private dialogue with the patterns, colors and textures that usually go unnoticed.“ His watercolors have a sense of intimacy of place that have been intensified in his latest works, large, richly colored canvases entitled The Wetland Series. These paintings are often praised for their beauty, although Marshall said the paintings are of areas many people would pass by without noticing. Unconventional landscapes, they are tightly focused examinations of the cycle of life in the wetlands, growth, death, and decay, an intense look at the natural elements where land and water meet.
Marshall's paintings are influenced by both Abstract Expressionism and Realism. In the simplest sense, Marshall's paintings are about surface, color, and form. On a more complex level, they are descriptions of realities. Through the contrast of illusionary three-dimensional form and the two-dimensionality of the paints, Marshall hopes to engage and momentarily dislocate the viewer. He told us:
“Interlocking passages of color areas simultaneously confirm and deny the flatness of the picture plane as forms emerge from the paint. I am not however, dealing with contradictions, but rather I want each painting to be delicious and inviting, a confirmation of multiple layers of reality.“
Snow Canyon was painted on site during a painting trip Marshall took with students in 1984. It is a delicate but detailed view of the this scenic canyon, just north of St. George, Utah. Although the painting is a watercolor, the rock formations have mass and solidity and a strong sense of agelessness. Marshall has captured both the look and the feel of the area, huge weathered rock faces and dry desert, sprinkled with just enough green to heighten the contrast between inhospitable rock and only slightly more hospitable ground. Marshall said his focus in the painting was on trying to capture the varying textures of the scene. To reproduce the textures he used a technique like dry brush watercolor, with a lot of surface texture, layering of colors, and a little opaque watercolor.
The design of the painting leads viewers' eyes into the rock formation, following what at first glance appears to be water but then becomes clearly a dry creek bed, shaped by the passage of water it once held. The rocks themselves have intriguing crevices, inviting exploration, and the soft complementary colors of the rocks and vegetation produce a richness often missing in watercolors. It is a painting to be lived with, to return to over and over again.