Marsha Pippenger tells stories in color with her chosen artistic medium of collage, also called papier colle. Her amazing work utilizes traditionally feminine art forms which piece scraps of various materials together, using paper instead of paint to create images that convey emotion as well as fascinating messages; simply put, she “paints” with paper. The vibrant work of this Kennedy Center-trained artist and teacher is currently on display at the Anna Bier Gallery located within Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall in Greenville.
As one enters the gallery, the eye is immediately drawn to “Medusa, A Tangled Web;” the goddess is beautifully depicted in a swirl of color, the snakes that form her tresses intriguingly coiled into the tangled web of the title. Although Medusa is often equated with terror or female rage, Marsha’s version seems to symbolize beauty, art, and philosophy, and fulfill the Greek definition of her subject’s name – guardian, protector.
Marsha produces work in collections centered around an organizing theme; this exhibit features pieces from her “Redefining Walls” and “Sanctuary” series, each component evoking a broad range of responses. Two striking large pieces from “Sanctuary” look like old maps, but intriguingly relate the experience of immigrants who now reside in Ohio; entitled “One Journey: J” and “One Journey: MJ,” the works invite thoughtful exploration.
Much time could be spent contemplating each of the works on display, discovering deeper meanings within; however, when more casually observed, each piece can also be enjoyed for its color and composition. “Our Country’s Heart” consists of myriad strips of canvas collaged and then woven together, each piece representing various aspects of the lives, hopes, and dreams of the former immigrants who now make up the citizenry of our nation; a deep pink and red valentine heart-shape fittingly emerges from the center of the piece. An abstracted Statue of Liberty can be discerned as the central image in a companion piece entitled “Sanctuary,” which also features horizontal strips bearing the words from Emma Lazarus’ beloved poem – “Give me your tired, your poor.”
“Tumbling Walls,” eight separate pieces within a large frame, bridges both of Marsha’s themes, its vibrant colors smudged with rust kindling reflection on current issues. Marsha states that she believes walls can be looked at as a way of bringing people together rather than separating them. “Walls can be healing, can gather us in and protect; walls support, they bear weight, connect one thing to another,” she explains. “And sometimes, light breaks through the cracks and overcomes the dark,” she concludes.
Marsha sometimes gains deeper insight into her own work from others; she believes that art is a conversation between artist and viewer, each seeing from their own unique frame of reference, and deriving messages from that perspective. As she sees it, regardless of the media utilized, art is the outward expression of interior experiences. Collage, at once painting, drawing, sculpture and assemblage, is perfectly suited to her philosophy of visual expression. She creates values and dimensions with paper, exploring new materials and combinations of objects to create a unified whole, a process she finds exciting and challenging.
She goes on to explain her enthusiasm more deeply: “Art is such an essential part of our world; it records our history and reminds us of our humanity. Art feeds and fills the soul. To be even a small part of that grand tradition, to have even a minute association with the masters, is an honor and responsibility I am proud to uphold. I love what I do!”
You will also love what she does. Her pleasing, soothing, exciting diverse work remains on display at the Anna Bier Gallery through Nov. 17, and can be viewed every day by appointment. To arrange an appointment or a tour, contact Gallery Director Tamera McNulty at 937-564-5863; all exhibits at the Gallery are free and open to the public.