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Juxtaposition is at the Heart of Marilyn Smith's Artwork

Juxtaposition is at the Heart of Marilyn Smith's Artwork

Palo Alto artist Marilyn Smith wants people to not only look at her art, but to touch it, to play with it, and possibly even break it.

“It’s essential that people be able to touch my artwork,” says Marilyn who has created pieces out of wood, stone and paper. “I don’t care if it gets damaged when someone is handling my art, as long as it’s being looked at. How delightful if it gets worn out.”

She refers specifically to those pieces she created using found items such as toys, an ivory bird carving, a tiny wool sheep, or a driftwood whale.

Her piece entitled, F=ma2 Bookends features a minimalist toy race car and tractor mounted on opposing bases. “They were the first of my sculptures using recycled and found objects that had particular emotional meaning for me,” she says. “The wood bases were salvaged from a local construction site and the stone from our front porch remodel.”

But the bulk of Marilyn’s artwork focuses on fine art bookmaking. Over the past five years, she has created an eclectic collection of accordion books, leaflets, paper constructs, boxes, and cards. Much of the artwork features photos and drawings of nature, poems, leaves, family photos, and other found objects.

Marilyn’s creative process often begins when she is sitting in front of her work space with piles of colored paper, scissors, and a glue stick. She juxtaposes different colors against a variety of backgrounds and bases resulting in collaged books of all shapes and sizes.

“I don’t necessarily see my art as creating order out of chaos,” she explains. “I know what I’m after. I’m more interested in how the different materials and colors work together, and how artwork happens.”

Susan Rosenberg, a longtime friend of Marilyn’s, says that she finds her artwork fascinating and fun.

“For me, I love her art, and as a friend, I get to see her wide range of curiosity,” says Susan. “It’s the way she sees things and puts it all together.”

Marilyn says she became interested in pursuing her artistic endeavors after taking a few book art classes at the Art Center and came to the realization that books could come in an endless variety of structures.

“Too often we feel that art has to be realistic and look like something,” she says. “But when you take something like photos and place it on a background, it gives it purpose. It makes you see the object differently.”

She also tells a story of a man who was clearing brush off her roof several years ago, who happened to mentioned that he did origami. He created a beautiful butterfly out of a dollar bill on the spot, and it convinced Marilyn to share her art with other people.

“It’s fun for me to show my art to other people, and it’s fun for them,” says Marilyn, who gives away most of her pieces to family and friends. “I enjoy getting the feedback.”

This story is part of a new ongoing series, “Makers in Your Neighborhood,” featuring artists in the Palo Alto area who are pursuing their creative dreams.

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Last Updated: January 29, 2020