I remember it started when I was pretty young, the baffling awareness of the mystery. It bothered me. Everyone acts so casual, but it felt troubling and like a big deal… this unsolved problem: life? How could we not know? Someone must know… We arrive here out of seeming nothingness into this world and we don’t really know why or it’s purpose or meaning? And then what happens after we die? Our family’s regular church attendance, while providing good moral frameworks, didn’t satisfy my existential concerns. The answers offered remained mental constructs that had no real reality for me. What was most helpful was the love from my family.
My grandparents had a ranch in Texas; at night in the country, you could really see the stars. It was vast….in the quiet darkness, I felt …. a whoosh of happiness. When I looked at that night sky, I sensed that something far grander than I could ever imagine exists. I felt the hope of meaning. Somehow beauty and wonder of the sky and nature made the unknowing easier to bear. Later, I majored in Humanities and Philosophy in college. I thought surely I could find some answers. However, even though the classes were very interesting, my perception was similar to Rilke when he said:
Is it possible that in spite of inventions and progress, in spite of culture, religion, and wisdom, one has stayed on the surface of life? Is it possible that even this surface, which might have been something, has been covered with an incredibly dull material till it looks like salon furniture during the summer vacation? The Notes of Malte Laurids Brigge; Rilke,1910. I felt I was at a well trying to get water, but there was a sheet of cellophane about mid-way down the hole. It appeared as though my bucket should go all the way to the water, but it didn’t. There was something I couldn’t penetrate. Then I started taking studio art courses. My father had been a part time painter and my mother loved interior design and crafts, so art making was not unfamiliar. I made things as a kid, but never thought of myself as an artist. I promised myself that first semester not to be critical and to let things flow, because actually, I was afraid I might not be creative enough. But, in the studio, for the first time in my life, my bucket was filling with water.
Yes, I have had to confront and struggle with the obstacles within myself that can block accessing that ground water, that block me from being a larger channel for that deep well. But the creative processes imbedded in life have and are still setting the conditions for access. We’re all in the middle of a creative process, (which feels deeper than the mind). The creative nature of reality can play out in many ways, (the unconscious entanglements of the mind can “create” problems), so I’ve found it necessary to also develop moral and character strength in tandem with creative exploration, as best I can. I want the water to be as clear as possible. Being creative is not always comfortable, like growth, but it’s so worth any effort. At it’s best, it connects us to something that feels true and real.
Echoing through my life are chords of loss: four of my siblings died, in their 20’s and 30’s. My father died young, as well. Other friends and family members, including my step father and father-in-law have also passed away.
But the ground that I live on is one of healing and love. My husband, family, and friends are my garden. The themes in my life and work have included these things: the mystery of time and space, change and loss, and the unseen world, as explored through science and spirituality. The night sky…
I still feel, up close and personal, the mystery. I still really want to know! But the experience of love and meaning helps to trust that mystery. I believe from the bottom of my heart, that it’s all ok.
And it’s going to be ok
You Tube Video: About The Artist: Donna Marshall
The artworks here are grouped chronologically and thematically in individual series; the uniting inspiration throughout grew out the contemplation of space and time.
The first series, Texas Nights, was inspired from looking at the night sky, (the vastness and grandeur of space) and contemplating our human condition, (our humble unknowingness). It is amazing that we exist. Out of nothingness, all this exists.
The Rock Paintings emerged from a fondness and fascination with rocks. Rocks express, in their slow storytelling forms, different time scales. They remind us of the long history. We too, were forged out of the same stuff: space, stars, and time.
Altar of Acceptance was an installation chronicling my grief process. At that time, we had lost three of my siblings. It was made at Pratt Institute for a MFA thesis.
Creation Game was informed out of my layman’s understanding of quantum physics. Science, in general, has gone through an amazing revolution the last 100 years and is opening new ways of thinking about reality. Quantum physics explores our landscape at the smallest levels, at the border of energy and matter.
Out Yonder, In Here is a series in progress. The relationship between our inner experience and the vast grandeur of space is multi-faceted. There is an intellectual awareness, (learning what we can about space and time), there are experiential encounters, (Hubble space photos and our own experiences of looking), but there's also something important: a feeling of connectedness. Between the inner self and spacetime there is a relationship, whether we are aware of it or not. Awareness of that relationship is not a concrete stable thing for most of us. But it is there, and needs nurturing (like any relationship), to deepen. I am trying to do this, predominately through meditation. This series is growing out of this experience.
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