Circles -- everywhere are circles. Within them are more circles, looping and curving in colorfully soothing patterns. Look closely and you will see tiny, intricate wavy lines within some of them them. You'll also notice an immeasurable number of teeny-tiny dots.
Welcome to "Seeing and Believing: Explorations in Spirituality," the inaugural solo exhibit of artist Marjorie (or "M.A.") Marshall, a fellowship student of Creald? School of Art in Winter Park, and an apparent master of the dot.
Of the 41 items on display at the Creald? Community Gallery, 13 are two-dimensional abstract illustrations and the rest are ceramic or pottery sculptures. Every single one of them features dots.
"The constant theme is always a circle," Marshall says in a pleasant Australian accent. "It symbolizes continuation."
Looking at Marshall's illustrations, I feel a sense of tranquility as I get lost in the vast spans of patterns. They vary from about letter-sheet size to some large enough to fill a good chunk of wall above your sofa, as well as her sculptures, which are each small enough to hold -- and, because of the multiple textures, she encourages visitors to feel them.
"They are surprisingly meditative to work on," Marshall tells me.
I am amazed at the intricacies, but even more amazed at the length of time she says she spends on each piece. Always working multiple projects simultaneously, she puts in a few hours a day on a piece and ends up spending several weeks on each one. For the bigger, more detailed drawings, Marshall spends as much as six months. This is one patient woman.
Also surprising is the chosen media for the graphics: markers. Although it looks as if she employs watercolors or another sort of paint, all of her drawings are done on white paper in Prismacolor markers, with which she is able to apply miles of the precisely positioned dots.
"Sometimes I look at dots for so long I feel like my head is about to explode," she says, laughing.
Marshall developed her first patterns by doodling while on the phone. The doodles grew and formed and eventually took on lives of their own. Marshall is no mere gifted doodler; her fine-art education includes a bachelor's degree from Queensland College of Art in her homeland, Australia. She majored in printmaking, with a concentration in lithography.
Marshall created all the items on exhibit after she finished college and moved to the United States. A couple of them date back to 2000, but most are from last year.
"One of the first things I did after I graduated was burn my portfolio," she says.
The statement surprises me at first, but as she further explains the whole continuity theory, it (and the circle) makes more sense to me. Whenever Marshall completes a piece of art, she leaves it and begins another. She tells me how she once watched and was fascinated by Tibetan lamas creating one of their famed Buddhist sand paintings. The monks spend many hours on end quietly funneling colored sand onto the ground into a pattern that, to them, represents the universe. Working quietly and meditatively -- much the way Marshall says she works -- they slowly create detailed and beautiful images, which they consider not art but religion. Then, when the sand paintings are finished, the monks destroy them by ceremoniously sweeping the grains into the center. This act symbolizes the continuity of life and how everything returns to its source. They distribute some of the sand among the audience and pour the rest into the ocean, thus returning it to its source.
Although Marshall's work may shares some similarities with the monks', hers is much lighter and, at times, even whimsical. My favorite was a bright and colorful drawing, "Grubs and Roaches (Food Chain Dreaming)," which includes (circularly shaped, of course) cartoonlike insects in various positions. In a couple of the other drawings, genderless bodies float around in circular patterns.
Other influences are nature and organics. Many of her sculptures, which are mostly spherical in shape, take on patterns and colors found in nature. "Tidal Pool Vessel" looks just like its namesake. Some of the vessels have giraffelike patterns, and others resemble moss or tree fungi. The addition of funerary urns in the collection adds further connotation to the cycle of life symbolism.
Sustaining her continuous cycle of art, Marshall has a handful of works, both pottery and graphics, on-going at home. She is a force Orlando will undoubtedly see more of, as she has recently settled here with her husband and new baby, and plans to stick around for many years to come.
The exhibit opened April 4 and continues through May 31. Best of all, it is free. For more information, call Crealdé at 407-671-1886 or go to www.crealde.org.