Marlene Steele



Awarded the “JOAN CORD AWARD OF EXCELLENCE” May 20, 2007

Painting specs:  Oil on canvas 
Dimentions: 40W x 50H  framed with recessed brown wood.

Reflections in Ruins: This painting is taken from the southeast corner of Vine Street and McMillan during the demolition of the disco club named “Reflections”. The composition juxtaposes the stately dark gothic forms of old St. Georges Church above the demo staging on a particularly bright and sunny day.

Characteristic of this new series is a fresh look at pictorial textures i.e., weeds, detritus and debris, graffiti as elements depicting themes of inner city turmoil, destruction and renewal. I have introduced the palette knife in the painting process to add dimension and surface texture to the painting that make even more physical the expression of the site.


Urban Landscapes

The industrial environment paintings explore my personal experiences in the commercial manufacturing district surrounding my Cincinnati based studio. In these compositions I am experimenting with new brushwork bravado in a “dirty” color palette. A variety of spatial confrontations present the viewer with an immediate impression of the urban industrial district, replete with litter and debris. A still-life of weeds and wood pallets punctuates the towering cavern with dirty light-filtering panes in “CenFab I”. In another painting, casually collected boards next to a rusting wood burner actually are the makeshift on-street hovel called “Cecil’s Place”. The shanty construction provides shelter from the heat of summer while displaying his current salvages for sale on the roof. These are not the manicured aprons of suburban industrial parks, where green weedless utopias bask in bright, unclouded horizons. Surfaces of smooth, light reflecting trailer paneling contrast sharply with broken patched brick and scrawling graffiti. This is the blighted war zone of the inner urban, populated with dayworkers and denizens alike.

My paintings of cityscapes materialize from an involvement with the geometry of architectural form and space in the everyday urban environment of Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati. In Northern Kentucky, the subject matter is often the residential and business architecture in the old German neighborhoods of Mainstrasse and Peaselburg. The transient moment of the season captured in the play of the sunlight and the setting of the clouds will be the reason I find compelling to begin scheming the composition, assigning values and shapes to form and space. In the watercolor entitled “Mother of God Church”, the double spires of Mother of God Church loom loftily in the soft light of autumn. The nearby drug store, Morwessel Drugs, conducts a brisk neighborhood business across from a building with turreted interest.

I begin with a sketch on site, often in pencil and watercolor, small in scale. The reason for this exercise is to capture in concise brevity the initial inspiration. My objective becomes grabbing what nuances and related details drew my imagination in the first place. These sketches become the basis of an oil painting executed in the studio. I have often augmented the concepts with photographs made same day or under different circumstances. Revisiting the site often and under different circumstances triggers the original inspiration and begins the process of distillation, a sifting of minutiae into a swirling symphonic revelation that becomes the substance of a painting. The ability to articulate feelings with the strokes of a brush and a combination of colors and shapes is like being entranced by a magical symphony, even more magical if the elements involved seem on first perception merely quotidian, even urbane.