Marliese Scheller’s captivating art defies easy categorization, as she delves into diverse techniques, cultures, and inspirations. From ancient influences to modern experimentation, her works reflect a lifetime of experiences and a profound exploration of the human experience.
By Claire Wu
If one were to ask artist Marliese Scheller what her work represents, there would be no straightforward answer. Due to the varied technical nature of her practice, her oeuvre cannot be so easily condensed into a simple response. Inspired by her travels, experiences meeting other artists, and time spent mastering art-making techniques, Scheller explores the vast spectrum of the human experience.
Scheller’s work is both figurative in style and highly narrative, employing a variety of mediums, techniques, and ideals that she has studied during her travels. Though not tied together by a single cohesive style or method, her works are united by her mission–a quest for knowledge, her inquisitive nature having spurred her onto an extensive, long-term study of the world we live in–and serve as an eternal “work-in-progress” that evolves in tandem with its maker.
“Independent of the subject matter or medium, the mastering of a technique is at the heart of my work,” Scheller says. “At the start of my career, I was fortunate to have met Henri H. Gowa, a pigment specialist, and Frans Masereel, one of the greatest woodcut artists of the twentieth century.” Her studies with the masters of these mediums are directly apparent in her works; the colors of her paintings echoing the hand of painters from the Middle Ages and the graphic nature of her ink drawings. In studying these techniques, Scheller gave herself room to experiment, adapting traditional methods to a modern-day approach, and allowing the mediums to serve her, rather than vice versa.
Beyond the use of these techniques, Scheller also applies the ideals and aesthetics of various mediums in her work, including graphic arts, historic painting, weaving, and Lebanese artisan craft. Her black-and-white period references the methodology of woodcut printmakers but can be applied to a much larger scale using ink on paper. She cites Eastern paintings and calligraphy as an influence in her work as well, having practiced extensively to master the flexibility of the brush and the control and confidence necessary to manipulate ink onto paper as exemplified by Chinese calligraphers and landscape painters.
“Each of the mediums becomes a vehicle through which I express a spontaneity that combines traditionalism with realism,” explains Scheller, though she borrows from more than just technique–much of her imagery harkens back to the paintings of the old masters, combining portraiture and figures with lush landscapes, animal motifs, and empirical perspective, all rendered in bold color on traditionally-prepared surfaces. “Inspiration is flimsy; it is something that arises first within… some of my characters are inspired by Russian literature. Birds, which are a recurrent theme, represent inner freedom while the Middle Ages, a period rich in creativity, has also left its mark on my art.”
As an amalgamation of Scheller’s vast lexicon of inspiration, her practice is highly fluid. Rather than limit herself to a single medium, subject, or concept, she allows herself to incorporate whatever ideas resonate with her at that moment. Her works are a reflection of her own musings on philosophy, psychology, and spirituality as they relate to the world around us, from her distinct individual experience. They unravel the rich tapestry of a lifetime of obtained knowledge and human experiences, showcasing the evolution of her craft, and allowing us a glimpse into her journey through life.