Robert Marshall . . . from
When Marshall came to B.Y.U., he took math,
science and language classes, but eventually decided he wanted to be
an architect. As a result, he took several art classes.
"I took a drawing class and a watercolor class and it was like walking
out of a dark room and realizing that there were people who dealt with
the arts and it was important. I'd never been to a gallery or a
museum. I'd never seen a real painting or sculpture or anything
so I had a lot of catching up to do."
Those who are familiar with Robert Marshall's work know him
for his landscapes, but like most artists who went to school in the
sixties, landscape was not the fashion. "Abstract expressionists
were still the big deal and pop artists were just coming on the scene.
Many artists try to be a number of painters, but hopefully figure out who
they are in the process. DeKooning and Rothko have always been favorites
of mine and I was always connected to the way they manipulated their materials,
but lurking back there was a closet landscape painter. I just kept
coming back to this need to have some type of pictorial, representational
type of information."
Marshall painted with watercolor almost exclusively for fifteen years
when he first started his career. Now he paints with oils as well,
but he still thinks of himself as a watercolorist in many respects.
“Even when I told myself I needed to work with something besides
watercolor for awhile, I would look at my large oil paintings and think
they were just watercolors with gooier paint. I still work from
those amorphous, general shapes. The oil paintings just give me
a chance to work on a bigger scale."
Even on a bigger scale, Marshall never paints panoramas.
He prefers close-ups of personal, private spots. "I think, at
best, my paintings are intimate areas you discover when you're involving
yourself with nature in a private way -- those places you discover when
you're tromping around. Hopefully by looking at them and seeing
what happens with the patterns, abstract elements and shapes, it becomes
bigger than that place and becomes a place that's very important to you."
"I always felt the panoramic Grand Canyon or Timpanogos
paintings refer so strongly to that place that it's never your place –
it’s everyone's place. And that's different from what I look for, which
is a place so intimate and personal that you can't identify its location.
I don't want you to be an observer of this place; I want you to be in the
place. I try to paint from a point of view that makes you feel like
you're levitating, being lifted into it rather than standing, just looking
Marshall recently finished fifteen paintings for an exhibit at B.Y.U.'s
Museum of Art called, "Intersections: Recent Paintings by Six Utah Artists."
The exhibit includes six artists, all of which are BYU professors.
"The show at BYU involved a lot of desert paintings of Snow Canyon
[though] I have been painting water for ten years or so. Something
got me excited about those rock formations, which I probably painted
the same way I paint water. They're very fluid."
When looking at Marshall's paintings, it is evident that water is an
intriguing element for him. He calls it magic. "You can see into
it, under it, through it; things penetrate it, it reflects from above,
it defines things yet it makes them ambiguous. Even close up, water
is pretty abstract. It creates its own reality and maybe this
comes from being a watercolorist, but I like how water lets me play visual
Several years ago, Marshall suffered from an aneurysm. When asked
if that life-changing event triggered a change or defined a new chapter
in his career, he hesitated for a moment. Even in retrospect, he
has a difficult time marking individual phases.
"After I had that surgery and got a second chance at
being around for a little while longer, I sent some new work to my Houston
dealer and he called and said, ‘You need to get sick more often, these
are the best things you've done.'
Robert Marshall in London
"I couldn't tell you how they were any different than the ones just
previous to them. If it's something you impose on the work, it never
has much substance, but if it comes as a natural consequence of something
that has happened to you, that's how it should happen. You're a different
person because something has happened to you and that will cause you to
respond to things and maybe define and direct your work, but I don't think
I went looking through different eyes. I give presentations and
see slides of my work. I know that I'm working the surface more
and there's more buildup in the paint, but I tend to paint through thematic
concerns or involvements with certain things or concepts."
In addition to preparing for the exhibit at B.Y.U., Marshall
recently spent over a year working on murals for the Nauvoo temple
as well as having a show in Arizona. When you add a full-time
teaching position at a university, it makes for one busy artistic career.
Marshall is currently in London directing the summer semester
for B.Y.U. study abroad students and will remain four additional months
to teach during the fall. London has almost become a second home
for Marshall, as this is his fifth time with the London study abroad
program. Because of this opportunity, he has been able to provide
a much different upbringing for his children who have accompanied him
and his wife during the semesters abroad. While his dad took him
to roller derbies and car shows, Marshall had the opportunity to take
his children to world-class museums, theater performances and concerts.
All of his children manifest artistic talents whether they be visual or
Although Marshall loves to travel, he loves being home as well.
"There are a lot of good things about Utah, and you're only one to three
hours from flying to any major state in the U.S. I love how so
many artists stay in the state. They like the life. You don't
need to live in L.A. or New York. For some, being in New York is
really important, but I don't think it's the best thing for artists to
do. I think it's a good way to get swallowed up. The artists I respect
in the U.S. are living in some little town in South Dakota or something.
I'm not a recluse, but I like being able to get out of the city in fifteen
minutes if I want. For the past ten or fifteen years all I've had
to do is go a mile up the canyon, find some private place and try and make
a painting that's bigger than life, rather than an important painting about
an important place."
Beginning with his days as a quarterback and continuing on as a professor
of art, Robert Marshall's career at Brigham Young University proves to
be a successful one. His football days ended a while ago, but his days as
an artist will continue well beyond his career at the university. He looks
forward to his future retirement when there is more time to relax, drive
up the canyon to his magical places and take out his paintbrushes.
Information for the news nibbles section can be
The deadline for the next issue is September 15th.
For continuing announcements from Utah's visual arts community,
AoU's Daily Calendar
of Events and the AoU
J. Davis Frames changes hands:
Jill Davis, a long-time framer in the Salt Lake area, has moved and left
her Sugar House Frame business in the hands of Travis Tanner. Tanner, a
BFA graduate of the University of Utah, has years of experience framing
Thin Air Design Gallery: Owner Kathryn Lichfield recently opened the Thin
Air Design Gallery on the second floor of her design store at 926 E 900 S.
The space is avialable for lease as a gallery.
The Utah Watercolor Society publishes a bi-monthly newsletter and will hold
monthly meetings the first Tuesday of the month, September through June at
Wheeler Farm, 6351 South 900 East, SLC, 7-9pm. Info: President Nancy at 272-0945
or V.P. Kelly at 944-1787.
IN SEPTEMBER: entry deadline for UWS 2003 Fall Membership Show, slides
due Sept 2nd..
UTAH'S ART FESTIVALS
Artists and art lovers!! We want to know what you think. Please
send us your comments on the art festivals you visited this summer.
Artists, we are interested in how you fared. Any festivals
-- in or outside of the state -- you would recommend/not recommend?
send your comments to:
September 19 and 20
Bluff Community Center in Bluff, Utah. The
Fair will open on Friday the 19th at 12:00 noon and go
till 5:00 p.m., and on Saturday the 20th from 9:00 a.m.
to 5:00 p.m.
The Bluff County Arts Fair will be
on the same weekend as the Sand Island Bluegrass
Festival that takes place west of Bluff at Sand Island
Campground in the evenings.
For information about Bluff go to
interested artists contact:
Bluff Community Arts Fair Committee
PO Box 407
Bluff, UT 84512
16 - 18
The 9th Annual
Helper Arts Festival
held in downtown Historic Helper. The festival
will be August 15-17, 2003, with exhibition space
provided Saturday, August 16, and Sunday, August
The Helper Arts
Festival will feature a working Children's
Art Yard, a youth Art Exhibit and a Plein Air
Competition. The festival features performing art stages
and entertainment that includes: country, pop, jazz,
live theatre groups, and poetry/book readings. The
festival is an outdoor event that is free to the public
with attendance averaging 5000+.