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John Lamb, Published June 04 2012

Marjorie Schlossman exhibits 30 years of work at Plains

FARGO - It’s a perfect fit for Marjorie Schlossman to be featured in the Plains Art Museum’s series “Mothers of Invention.” The Fargo artist is a font of creativity, with more than 1,800 painted canvases to her name.

About 60 of those works will be shown at the Plains’ career overview, which opens Thursday night.

Yet “Symphony of Color” is Schlossman’s first solo show in Fargo in more than a decade, a hint that the painter is perfectly comfortable working outside the standards of the art world.

Schlossman doesn’t – and won’t – sell her art (“It’s an exhibit, not a market space,” she says), and she isn’t concerned that people in her own hometown know she’s a painter.

“I don’t know, and I honestly don’t care. My job is to do the best work I can, and that’s all I have to do,” she says.

It’s that work that got her the show.

“Marjorie really has the stature and seriousness in her work like Judy Onofrio has,” says Colleen Sheehy, director and CEO of the Plains, referring to the colorful circus-themed Rochester, Minn.-based sculptor who kicked off the “Mothers of Invention” series last fall.

The series offers solo exhibitions to older women artists to help balance out that more attention is typically paid to male artists.

“I think she’s a wonderful example of creative artists of an older generation that overcame a lot of assumptions about what women could do and how serious their work can be,” Sheehy says. “Being a local Fargo artist, I thought it was important to look at her achievements and career.”

Already an accomplished violinist, Schlossman started painting in 1973 while living with her family in California.

By 1980, she began tapping into an unconscious approach through a series of mental exercises.

“My philosophy is, the most meaningful images come from the unconscious,” she says.

She steps to an already-painted canvas in her Roberts Street Chapel and gestures how she makes initial marks with charcoal.

“I don’t really have conscious control over what I’m doing. … I try to let the painting lead me rather than pushing it into some preconceived idea,” the 68-year-old explains. “I find that surprises me. It’s mysterious, even changeable, and that’s what’s held my attention all these years.”

The most meaningful images come from the subconscious, she says. Schlossman refuses to characterize or describe her style or lump it in with a genre or movement.

“You bring your kid home and you don’t want them defined by a name, but they have to have a name,” she explains.

When asked why then she called one piece “Funnies,” she simply deflects the question.

“That was my silly comment,” she says smiling. “I think getting very deeply into a painting screws you up.”

Looking at more than 30 years of her work, you see that Schlossman has always been engaged in the study of color and shape.

The show’s curator, Christina Schmid from the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul, suggests comparisons to great American painters like Jackson Pollock and Philip with “a rhythm of her own,” describing Schlossman’s work in the hardcover catalog.

While some of her earlier pieces from the 1980s seem to resemble caricatures or small people and faces, she prefers not to make suggestion, but rather leave it up to the viewer.

“So much of it is open to interpretation, and I like to keep it open,” she says. “I like to think that paintings are alive because this method allows for that.”



Though music and literature have been a big part of her life, she doesn’t claim them as influences.

“I find those deeper emotions in music. I don’t know if it comes out in my work,” says Schlossman, a longtime member of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra.

She is, however, inspired by one musician in particular – her uncle, the Pulitzer- and two-time Grammy-winning composer, conductor and jazz musician Gunther Schuller.

“He isn’t interested in being famous, but more interested in doing fine work,” she says.

His sons, her cousins, noted drummer George and bassist Ed Schuller will perform Friday night at Studio 222 in Fargo.

“Interdisciplinary thinking helps add to things,” Schlossman says, adding that she doesn’t want one voice to overwhelm.

Hometown influence

In 1992, Schlossman and her family moved back to Fargo.

“When I moved here 20 years ago, I wanted to be isolated art-wise, because you have to dig down deep to find your own voice,” she says.

Isolation may not necessarily be a theme in her busy, colorful paintings, but it is in her approach.

Inspired by the Rothko Chapel, the non-denominational space in Houston filled with the colored paintings of the late Mark Rothko, Schlossman created her own Roberts Street Chapel in 2002. In the spot a block west of the Fargo Theatre, Schlossman has created six murals that play off the natural illumination of the skylight above and the undulation of an interior wall.

The Roberts Street Chapel will be open in conjunction with the Plains show, but Schlossman says the best way to experience it is to visit alone.

“It’s about one person interacting with a painting,” she says. “I hope people keep looking again and again and getting something out of it.”

People can also share a similar experience at one of five chaplets, mini structures built to be left in nature and show her work. These will be left in area parks like Island Park and in the Great Northern Bicycle Co. parking lot off Broadway.

“I hope people will have their own interactions and nourishing emotions with it,” Schlossman says about her goals for the show.

“To have an artist who has done this work for this long, it’s a huge accomplishment,” says Megan Johnston, director of curatorial affairs and interpretation. “She’s a huge artist in the region. She’s not someone who comes to the forefront, but she should.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

If you go

What: Marjorie Schlossman opening reception

When: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: Plains Art Museum,

704 1st Ave. N., Fargo

Info: Free for museum members; $10 for non-members. (701) 232-3821