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Marybeth Rothman Bridges Generations Through Art


“A master of her medium. These paintings are a brilliant fusion of photographs from the past with contemporary figure drawings.” — Nancy di Benedetto, New York Author and Art Historian


I don’t know about you but there are very few things more interesting to me than looking at old photos.  I guess it is because I find myself immersed in figuring out who the subject was while imagining the life they might have led.  I love old stories too for that very same reason.  A photo and story are one in the same -- a snapshot in meaningful history on a very personal level.  


That is why I love the work of artist and blogger Marybeth Rothman.  Marybeth Rothman is known for her figurative, photo collage and mixed media paintings, the likes of which hijack my attention and hold me captive for days on end. The faces she shares in her work are just the beginning of the connection she establishes between her subjects and their audiences.  Marybeth possesses the unique ability to reveal life in its purest of forms through her art, reminding us how precious each moment is, if not how fleeting.  


She uses her blogging to support this goal while also helping the public to understand more about art and the artist.  If you have not discovered the brilliant talent that is Marybeth Rothman, do so now in her interview below.


What is your personal mantra?

Put one foot in front of the other.


Share a bit about your personal and professional background?

I am married to Arthur Rothman, a wonderful husband, father, physician and composer.  We have three amazing sons, Ben Jack and Sam. Our eldest, Ben is an innovative website designer/front-end developer. He just made a beautiful redesign of my website. Jack is autistic and loves to draw, jump and swim. My portrait of Jack can be found here.  Sam, our youngest son, is a student at The George Washington University. He is on his way to great career in communications. My sons are smart, witty, kind and have the strength of a thousand men.


For many years after graduating form Rhode Island School of Design, I worked as an illustrator of figurative work for editorial and advertising in New York. I left Madison Avenue when I could no longer resist the pull to make art that was my own and not tethered to the vision of an art director.  Over the years I continued to focus on the figure and investigate its relationship to my message and materials.


What is the name of your website and blog?

Marybeth Rothman Studio Blog.


How does your blogging impact your art and vice versa?

Writing and blogging is integral to my creative process. My work in the studio is comprised of a circular series of actions; visual output, visual input and translating these visual and tactile expressions into words. I write about art that I see to understand what artists are saying and I write about my art to see how it fits into that dialogue. Along with drawings, many of my sketchbooks are filled with thoughts, notes or essays about art. Some of this writing is transformed into my artwork or published on my blog in “Art Objects Observed”. This deep-rooted rhythm of making art, seeing art and writing about art inspires me to work everyday


Describe your art, including what you are trying to do through it?

Years ago, while immersed in a studio practice focused on the figure, I began to collect, vintage photographs. I was struck by the finality of their discard. This notion of the untended became an obsession for me and over the years I have amassed a rather large collection of unwanted, orphaned photographs. I am always searching among my photographs for the man with averted eyes or the woman whose empty stare appears indifferent to communication beyond the lens. These un-self conscious portraits are the inspiration for my work; a wish to reclaim these lost and forgotten souls by re-imagining their biographies


As time went on painting the figure was not enough. I found it necessary to add layers to my work and started cutting and a pasting my oil paintings.  At this point where I began to use collage and introducing vintage photographs from the 1940’s into my work, I discovered encaustic paint (pigmented bees wax).  I found I could compose many layers with encaustic, imbedding materials into my work, creating a visual depth that is unique to this medium.


The integration of orphaned, vintage photographs, digital photography, abstract drawings and encaustic paint in my work occurs simultaneously as a dialogue develops among these elements. The mixed media approach to my work is both additive and subtractive; employing many subtle layers to form an amalgam of biographical texture. The facial expression and posture of the figure in the photographs influence my palette; the lines and marks that I make to create the narrative abstract drawings and paintings. As I work, these disparate elements transcend the physical attributes of the material and become one brush for me to paint portraits of strangers.


Given you were in charge of convincing schools not to remove art programs from them, share the argument you would pose.

I am not an educator; I speak as a parent and an artist. As parents, we instinctively teach our babies and preschool age children to perceive and navigate the world using their five senses. When an educational system eliminates visual art and music programs it constrains this elemental way of learning. I believe a well-balanced education integrates learning experiences that engage all of the senses. To this end, it is essential that students be provided with learning opportunities beyond books and computers that include visual art and music.


What is your favorite piece of art (outside of your own) and share why?

This is the most challenging question in this interview. There are many works of art that inspire and move me. My favorite work of art can be defined by what I yearn for creatively in a given moment.  At this writing, I feel the need to get out of my studio. I am currently working on particularly intense, detailed elements of photo collage and need to stand back and absorb something big.  Today, my favorite artwork is Wolfgang Laib’s Pollen from Hazelnut. This unembellished, yet complex 18x21’ wash of golden pollen on a concrete was installed in MoMA’s cavernous Marron Atrium in 2013.  Wolfgang Laib’s Pollen from Hazelnut was a sensory bath of luminous color, texture and fragrance.  


Share a social cause or cause-based organization you support or are involved in.

I am a supporter of Aging With Autism Foundation. This year more children will be diagnosed with autism than cancer, aids and diabetes, combined. While strides are being made with research and early intervention, there is little or no support for adults with autism.  Aging with Autism helps create vocational, residential and community programs for teens and adults with autism.  They provide support to organizations that serve more involved individuals with classic autism.  


When all is said and done, how do you want to be remembered?

I want to be remembered by the sons I leave behind. I know they will be good men and live on with love for their family, friends, and community. And, I want to be remembered for my art, that I had something to say about the world and, hopefully, a few people listened.


They are viewing, listening, reading and realizing the genius of Marybeth Rothman because she is “making something old" new again, in a whole new way.  That’s rather perfect for our current socially-concerned, curious culture, don’t you think?  She’s onto something, folks, and so should you her site.  

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