FEATURING JEAN MARCELLINO
Getting it right, getting it real, redeeming the art of rendering
By Ilene Skeen
"Jean Marcellino is a woman," I said.
Raising an eyebrow, Ms. Foster replied firmly, "Doesn't matter."
Thus, as the artist-anthropologist founder of Barebrush, I learned then that superior skill can trump aesthetic prejudice. It was a revelation. However, the real story of Jean Marcellino today is a tale of how dedication to a singular vision and superlative skill has developed into a uniquely twenty-first century aesthetic.
As a young girl, Jean drew and painted for hours every day from the age of four through high school. Her goal was to capture what she saw accurately. The "art world" was going in a different direction. As an art major in Cooper Union in 1960, she found Abstract Expressionism unappealing. Tonal rendering was considered unacceptable and irrelevant. Instead, she opted for a major in advertising. After retiring from a successful advertising career, she thought again about drawing. Marcellino credits an article by Ephraim Rubenstein, "Drawing Basics: The Emergence of Tonal Drawing" (American Artist, September 2006) with reigniting her passion for drawing and helping her find her current path. She enrolled in Rubenstein's class in the Art Students League of New York, and after a 40+ year hiatus, she says, "I gave myself permission to be terrible." Painting followed, as well as participation in Barebrush. Marcellino was Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome three times. Marcellino also met and painted in Rome with American painter and fellow tonalist, Wendy Artin.
Also notable is her oil on linen Portrait of Sandra Day O'Connor acquired by the Smithsonian Institute. It is in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery and was included in the "Treasures from the Smithsonian Institute" 2011 desk calendar.
|Portrait of Sandra Day O'Connor|
When I chatted with Marcellino over coffee and breakfast in November 2014, I asked her to select some of her "best or favorite" artworks on Barebrush. She selected seven, (marked with asterisks). True to the idea of art as an exploration, Marcellino especially likes capturing the figure with drapery. Using marks on a two-dimensional plane, she builds her metaphor for our three-dimensional world. The light and dark of the figure and the environment participate with each other to form the unity we call art.
Marlo Lost in Stripes is a tour de force of this metaphor. The shallow curves of the ribs
|Marlo Lost in Stripes*|
Barebrush curators and the general public like her art as well. Over the years, Barebrush guest curators have nominated Marcellino for the Curators Choice awards 27 times, and she has won 8 firsts, 8 seconds and 6 third-place wins, a remarkable record.
Since the heyday of Abstract Expressionism, representational art has been slowly but inexorably on the rise. Perhaps the most striking aspect of Marcellino's art is its distance from the rendering we have been taught so carefully to disdain. An alert glance at the works below reveals figures in poses and with attitudes that are supremely modern. Most of these compositions could only be found in art at the end of the nineteenth century, at the earliest. At the same time, Marcellino's careful rendering and the subtle artistic explorations of tone against tone are absent almost entirely from the art of the twentieth century.
|Saskia Hangin' Out*|
|Manou's Brief Return*|
|Pillow Drapery |
More about Jean Marcellino