‘Dark Matter’ Inspiration

I’m intrigued with the ‘dark matter’ in our universe. An astronomer whose lecture I attended stated that more answers, information and “stuff’ lies in the ‘dark matter’ than in what is lit and visible”. With my current black paintings I am trying to peer into that seemingly black void and be enlightened but do not have the extreme night vision required. There is something grand and ironic about the fact that where knowledge and illuminating facts might reside is mysterious and unavailable to us.


My black 24″ reductive oil on wood square paintings, that hover off the wall six inches, align with my Shades series aesthetically but they additionally pay tribute to mystery and the unknown. Do we really want to know everything? That seems like no fun to me. My reflections on ‘dark matter’ have luckily inspired paintings that are elegant, dramatic and a bit noir. There is a lot more to this color than meets the eye in science and in art. Enjoy.

Exhibiting at NMSU’s Art Gallery

Breathing Lessons 1-5Selections from the Permanent Collection at The University Art Gallery, NM State University, Las Cruces will include my 5 piece blue painting installation, Breathing Lessons. These pieces are painted on paper adhered to wood frames that recede to the wall. The installation creates wonderful shadow effects that become part of the piece. The University purchased this when it was part of the 2-person exhibit Visceral Whispers featuring the work of Betty Hahn and myself in 2005.

This exhibit will be open July 2 – August 3. An opening reception will be held July 5th from 5-7pm.

Breathing Lessons is part of my ongoing Blue Series that began in 2001 with my residency at Crater Lake, OR the deepest bluest lake in the US. Being immersed in the beauty of this lake gave me an appreciation for the healing possibilities of the color blue. Blue has many associations for people but calmness, nature and wellness are very prevalent. My excavation of blue lead me to think about other colors and how they influence our lives thus began other series of work focusing on color.

SHADES Exhibits

Insights 27 (left), an oil on wood painting from my reductive SHADES series will be showing in the wonderful group exhibit, Sea and Sky at the Liz Afif Gallery in Philadelphia from June 6-June 28.


Other work including Lost and Found (right) from the SHADES series is now available at Snapp Price Projects Gallery in ABQ! Additional SHADES work can still be seen at Tinney Contemporary, Nashville and at Gallery Sonja Roesch, Houston. To view more work from this series please click here.

SHADES was inspired by my silent, still and reverent observation of either the changing sea or sky around me. While in artist residencies by Italy’s Tyrrhenian Sea or in Finland’s Arctic Circle I resisted intelligence and was present in the natural world, learning about it up close, right here, right now. This softened the imaginary line between nature and me. The resulting paintings also softened becoming reductive sensory memories capturing my feelings rather than the details.

The sheer wonder of the world around me without the interfering static of everyday noise influenced my work helping me to sense the day’s moods and nuances that would have been missed in a usual day’s ‘attention blink’. Tapping into this undercurrent of knowledge is what my art is about. I use these elements to express my own visceral responses to life and to evoke those of the viewer.

My life has taken a deliberate turn in the last decade—more focused—intrigued by empty space, interested in the air between the notes. Working in my home studio suits my need for the contemplative solitude my paintings require. Paradoxically I am also a traveler with much curiosity about the world. Exposure to unfamiliar places challenges my perceptions, expands my ideas and ultimately informs my life and my work.

Finland’s weather of fog, mist, rain and cloud masses can all occur in a summer’s 24 hour lit day. The northern sky’s light is infused with a translucent clearness that made me feel as though I could step into and through any barrier into the universe itself. Looking from my Finnish studio window I saw the sky’s wondrous shades of lemony yellow and pinks when the sun winked.

Italy’s southern coast in contrast has vibrancy and high drama. The days were pregnant with every blue color value and the nights were black velvet. The sea’s beauty could be both tumultuous and soft as cashmere fascinating me from my studio or walking in the complimentary sands.

I dipped my brush into my soul and painted what cannot be said verbally. I used the glazes in the paintings for the pure translucency of the skies, the gradations for the subtle nuances of color that shifted continuously and the bold contrasts and marks for nature’s spontaneous surprises. The sensuous spirit of my travels returned home with me in my work and in my heart.

Thin Places*

When my husband and I visited Alaska several years ago the one place I truly wanted to visit was the city of Barrow. It was a heartfelt and non-logical desire. Barrow way way up North at the end of the 01. Arcticworld called to me with a Siren’s song. I didn’t know what to expect but as we traveled the length and breadth of Alaska. It was my most memorable and inspiring experience.

Flying to Barrow from Fairbanks I could see and sense it’s remoteness from the skies. We landed on a small airstrip and bused into the small village built on tundra and permafrost. The buildings showed their history of hard winters and their stilt construction made them appear tenuous. The landscape was flat with grasses that looked as though a hair iron had pulled it through its prongs until it was straightened smooth. Winds from the sea had bent the grasses down to its roots.

But it was standing staring out into the Arctic Ocean’s horizon and dipping my toes into its freezing waters that fulfilled my primal need–that of traveling to the ‘end’ or maybe more accurately the ‘beginning’.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeduced by Barrow, I applied and received an artist residency in the town of Kimijarvi, north of Finland’s Arctic Circle and Finland’s northernmost city. At first I was disappointed as we drove to the Residency from the Rovaniemi Airport about 60 minutes south of Kemijarvi. I saw forests to the right and left, in front of us and to the rear. We were enclosed by verticality, busyness and green-ness–not the minimalism I expected. But soon the translucent 24 hour light won me over making me feel as though I could climb right up into the sky passing through the air and clouds to the heavens above. Visiting Norway to the North all the way to the sea gave opportunities at the top of the fiords to see minimal landscapes with land and water meeting at the same ground level seamlessly with nothing to obstruct my views.


Almost immediately after leaving Finland I started longing for a polar experience. I researched the possibilities and honed in on the Antarctic Continent–way way down in a different season plane. I petitioned and won my willing husband over and then 9 months of planning and outfitting ensued. The busyness of planning the expedition stalled any conscious thinking on my part of what the trip would really entail. I just operated on the knowledge that I wanted to go. It wasn’t until just a month or so before we left that the reality of crossing the Drake Passage at Cape Horn occurred to me when I remembered reading about it’s water’s treacherous possibilities.

Working our way down Argentina’s Patagonia made me realize the potential enormity of our trip. Everything in Patagonia seemed large and spectacular. The Perito Moreno Glacier, the mountains, 03B_Perito Morenothe sunsets, the sheep estancias, the Andes. Then finally we arrived at Ushuaia the southern most city in the Americas (and serendipitously the sister city of Barrow, Alaska) where we were to board our Russian Research ship, Vavilov. The Beagle Channel at Ushuaia leading to the Drake Passage promised and threatened as I stared out into the seas that would soon be mine to conquer. There was no denying we were in for an adventure, I just didn’t know what just yet but I had a longing, a craving to get out there and do ‘it’.

03C.UshuaiaAs we boarded the Vavilov and made our way through the Canal seeing Ushuaia fade and the waters open we were told that there was a storm in the Drake and that we should be prepared with whatever medications we would need. We were instructed in the “one hand for the ship” rule of always holding on to something (not doorways) when walking or climbing stairs to prevent falling injuries. A clue as to what to expect, eh?

This was our entree into 2.5 days of turbulent seas, the power of which I had never experienced. My ‘patch’ and meds kept me safely sleeping on and off as the boat was hurled and lifted and slammed. 04. Drake50-foot waves treated the ship like it was a plaything but the Russian crew’s experience kept us navigating the rough waters with exceptional skills. My husband and I would marvel at the rocking of our bed; now we’re on our heads and now on our feet with a shake and rumble in-between and a slam now and again. The strength of the water was unbelievable. Nature in the raw. It was scary but also incredible as we watched the seas pound our cabin windows over and over with visual patterns that were spellbinding.

05. SunriseThen one morning at 3 am the sun rose in its magnificence of reds, pinks, oranges and yellows hitting the snow covered mounds on the land around us and illuminating paths in the water. It was gorgeous. I mean so gorgeous I wanted to sing one of the great ‘glory to god’ hymns. The light was clear, radiant, and transformational all the more so for the darkness we had just passed through. If you ever believed you need darkness to see the light, this was it–the ying and yang of all time.

Then days of dressing in our many layers and undressing and dressing again. Learning how to do a sailor’s handhold into the Zodiacs to cruise or do landings and hikes on the continent. Each outing unique, each one a blessing for the soul. The Antarctic is a wonderment. I was in the grips of awe all the time. So much so that my intellect luckily left me. Usually so curious and wanting to ‘know’ everything I 08.Penquin 07. icebergplayed hooky from most of the lectures by the naturalists and historians aboard. I just wanted to be there, to be present. I did not want to think. Maybe I was being influenced by the unspoiled wildlife–the wonderful penguins, the seals, the whales, the birds. Maybe I didn’t learn all their names and habits but I sure tuned in to their reptilian brain simplicity. What calming bliss.

So I walked and climbed and sat and watched hardly believing I was in this place that was so otherworldly and yet feeling that this is truly our Earth without all the artifices. It is our real world unfiltered, unedited, unchanged. I had such a sense of being small, insignificant, a voyeur watching a big, powerful world unfurl in front of me. This was not a negative feeling. It was a marvel for me to be a small part of this larger incredible world of ours. I felt on a quest to see the truth, to see our planet, to take it in as it is without all our modifications and without my projections or blinders. My heart was big and full the entire trip. It swelled when I saw icebergs as big as apartment buildings, one doing the favor of turning upside down in front of us–wow. When I saw the humpback whales ‘logging’ or sleeping looking like logs I 10. Whalewas tearful in gratitude and humility. Even when I saw a leopard seal kill and eat a penguin I was honored to be a witness to the horror and the naturalness of the violent act. I was in joy!

Eventually returning to the mainland back through the Drake Passage took another 2 and a half daunting days of storms. I returned to my safe bed harbor and rested among the turbulence feeling the glow of being familiar with this, knowing this, and in a crazy way loving it. Sure it was a bit scary to be told by our veteran Captain of 25 years that this was the roughest waters in the Drake of his experience but also feeling so humbled to be a witness to this experience.

06. Landscape 09. SealThe land trip home was dreamlike as my heart remained held by the Antarctic and the transition to my “reality show” was luckily snubbed. It seemed like we were returning home after a long, long trip. I think that we moved into a place so unknown and foreign to us that time was suspended. My primary feeling upon returning was one of being very blessed, privileged and content. I canceled a few pending trips almost feeling like I had finally been where I wanted to go and to travel was not any longer such a driving force for now.

The dramatic images I witnessed in the Antarctic were seen by my artist eyes that reduce things to light, color and form. It’s like squinting when what you’re looking at retains the essence of the viewpoint, not the details. My memory logs how I felt in a “place”. Then there’s the heart factor that imposes itself, impossible to keep at bay.

So back in my home studio I have a mind’s view of black paintings for the granite mountains and white of all shades blanketing them. I also imagine some of my photos and moreover sculptures of the ethereal icebergs unfolding. Ah, maybe that’s where the blues, pinks and yellows will manifest. Then there are the collaborative pieces that my husband, David and I are contemplating. It will all evolve in time as it’s meant to be. Savoring is first. I’m not ready to let go of the savoring just yet. Maybe soon. Maybe the savoring will inform my work. It must don’t you think?

Stay in touch and let’s see what unfolds.

11. nspiration

*Thin places are the places on Earth where the concrete world that we perceive and the spiritual world we believe are thought to touch.

Intimate Visions at Leich Lathrop Gallery


Intimate Visions will exhibit at Leich Lathrop Gallery May 2 – June 5 with an opening reception on Sunday, May 5 at 3-5pm. The exhibition will feature works on paper by myself, Deborah Gavel, and Joyce Shupe, including pieces from my Chimes, Luminers, and Limnings series. To view the works on paper section of my portfolio click here.

Scroll down to view images of my installation from the show.

Image 1 Image 8 P1040014 P1040019 P1040031 P1040033

Ode to Curators

Jeanne Brasile, Director of Seton Hall University’s Walsh Gallery, and I had been in dialogue about my art over a couple of years and how to present my work in an exhibition. The process of watching her assimilate my work and paring down all the facets of my output (paintings, sculptures, work on paper, et al.) to a cohesive concept was observing the mastery of a curator’s skill. As a result she luckily became the curator of my exhibition “Earthly Pleasures” showing at the Walsh Gallery until April 5, 2013 (pictured below).


It is a wonderful thing for me to witness a curator design an exhibit of my work that executes their vision. Just less than a year ago Jeanne commented that the exhibit she envisioned would revolve around my travels and observations of the natural worlds I experienced, using the colors they presented as was nurtured by my Grandmother many years earlier. Brasile familiarized herself with my oeuvre so that it became possible for her to choose the work that supported her idea, writing the names of the pieces on the gallery’s blueprint with the installation designs she envisioned. This she confidently did by email.

And the exhibit was executed exactly as Jeanne conceived it six months before receiving the work in hand. The clarity with which she visualized her intentions and the superb fulfillment of those intentions fill me with admiration, awe and so much respect for Jeanne and for curators. It is a delight for me to walk into the gallery and recognize a “story” told so well with my art and the curator’s understanding of my issues. Thanks Jeanne Brasile!

I think you will gain an understanding of Jeanne’s curatorial process if you read Jeanne’s statement below, accompanied by photographs of the exhibit “Earthly Pleasures” by David Vogel:

27Marietta Patricia Leis’ lush, saturated color field paintings function as fenestrations into an unconfined world of natural forms. The oil paintings are, in part, evocative of landscapes, seascapes, plant forms, weather patterns or micro-organisms and can be concomitantly seen as many of these phenomena. Nuances of color and light palpably depict a range of imagery that encapsulates a life of experience, serving as complex memory portraits that tap into emotions and feelings. For Leis, the paintings are meditations on specific places and times in her life.

The earliest of these memories date to the time she spent with her maternal grandmother, Ermelinda Fiore. Ermelinda’s world was one of scents and colors, a lasting impression on Leis’ young mind. Leis recalls accompanying her grandmother to the garden, spending hours listening to her as she described the flowers and their various attributes. Making their way back to the house, they would then arrange the flowers into bouquets, an art form in her grandmother’s home. The kitchen was similarly filled with indulgences of taste, smell and creativity. Cooking was also a form of creative expression for her grandmother and provided another realm of aromas and colors amid a backdrop of floral arrangements from the garden.



Leis’ more recent influences are derived from her extensive travels, one of the most seminal being a trip to Italy in 1979. There she tapped deeper into her Italian heritage and absorbed a new range of 48colors and influences. After an artist residency in Crater Lake, Oregon, Leis’ painting took on new resonance. She began to travel more widely to such exotic locations as Thailand, Greece, the Antarctic, Finland, Spain and Portugal. Having experienced a variety of locales, each with their own particular light and color conditions, her paintings took on the task of expressing the bounty of nature and its variety of nuances.

The multiplicity of blue shades encompassed in the sky and water became one of her favorite muses. This can be seen most clearly in works like Barrier Rift I & II, Breathless 1-6, and QuietnessDepictions of atmospheric conditions are expressed in Pixels, which indicate a variety of tones and colors as well as the formless structures of fog and light. But Leis’ work always draws upon her early years back in New Jersey with her grandmother. The Seed paintings offer us a variety of green, brown and golden hues culled from her “nonna’s” garden. The sheer variety of colors, light conditions, hues, tones and saturations attributed to Leis’ work reveals an artist that is concerned with looking at, meditating on, luxuriating in the bounty of nature and all its endless permutations. In Earthly Pleasures we enter a world that Leis constructs for us from memory. It is the absence of a very specific, figurative language that leaves us with occasion to assemble memories borne of our own experiences. Leis’ ability to reference her own past and present, while bridging that of her audience makes her painting resonate so profoundly. In every work we sense the artist’s gratitude and awe in the bounty of nature and we, too, can feel it intensely.

– Jeanne Brasile, Curator






Earthly Pleasures at Seton Hall University

pixel-installEarthly Pleasures, a solo exhibition of my work curated by Jeanne Brasile, will be shown at the Walsh Gallery, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ. The exhibit will run from March 11th-April 5th with an opening reception on March 14th,  from 5-8pm. It will encompass work of the last 12 years that reflects my impressions of the many places I have traveled. There will be approximately 57 pieces shown including paintings from the Blue Series, Green Series, and Pixels, as well as works on paper and some sculptures.

Being a native daughter of East Orange, NJ, I grew up close to the University where there was an enclave of Italian-Americans, one being my grandmother, Ermelinda Napoliello. She was an enormous influence on my sense of beauty, aesthetics and especially of color.  I would work by her side in her garden of adundant colors. The use of color in my work reflects this early exposure and drew Brasile to my work.

Peter Frank, art critic of the Huffington Post, has written an essay that accompanies the exhibition:


Vapor_5Marietta Patricia Leis’ markedly minimal artwork – and minimalist sensibility – belies, but at the same time subtly conveys, its richness of source. However self-referential Leis’ emphatically reductive paintings, objects, and painted objects may seem, they begin in response to stimuli in the observed world. This in itself does not define, much less explain, their existence; if they act diaristically for Leis, emerging from her travels and her feelings, they do not – and should not – act prosaically for us. Rather, they function as distillations of experience, related to places and sensations inspiring them much as perfumes do to the scent sources comprising them. They are not about Leis’ life, but are conjured from it. They themselves provoke sensation, ineffable and yet profound.

Continue Reading

Crossing the Sea to be in Permanent Collection

My beautiful pictureIt is with great pleasure that my oil Painting, Cultivate the Sea, is heading to the Comunale Pinacoteca di Arte Moderna in Teora, Italy, the ancestral home of my beloved grandmother, Ermelinda Fiore Napoliello. Teora is located in Central Italy, south of Naples, in the Province of Avellino, a Region of Campania. The Mayor Stefano Farina, whom I met in 2007, is responsible for acquiring my work for the town’s permanent collection as he is impressed with the significance of my connection to Teora.

The painting in the Pinacoteca (art gallery) will be from my Marietta Robusti Tintoretto series that tells of the life of the Venetian artist in the 15c. Marietta Tintoretto was the  daughter of the great master Jacopo Tintoretto. You can read more about this series of work here.


Mayor Stefano Farino of Teora with my painting.
Mayor Stefano Farino of Teora with my painting.

Popular Ballad 4 Exhibits Again

Ballad 4 just returned to the studio from exhibiting in the International Tour that went to China, South Korea, and Istanbul. Now it’s been chosen to exhibit at the 28th Annual International  Exhibition at Meadows Gallery, University of Texas at Tyler. The exhibit opens January 8th and will show until February 8th with a reception January 17th. Wade Wilson, the director of galleries in both Santa Fe and Houston, selected Ballad 4 to be in this group exhibition. Ballad 4 is a 15 x 15” oil on canvas painting from my series, Atmospheres. The work was inspired by my artist residency in Scotland at the Cawdor Estate, home of Shakespeare’s MacBeth castle. See Stories 2 below, another painting from the Atmospheres series.