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Marlene Ekola Gerberick: Great Gifts Come

Birds’ nests, feathers, bones. Paintings, artists’ books, assemblages. The work in the studio of Marlene Gerberick is both nature-based and eclectic. The overall colors are soothing tones of gray, white, and browns with an occasional soft blue. No reds. “I have no use for red,” says Gerberick. Marlene Ekola Gerberick is an artist who has been creating all of her life and she is now entering her eighties—“a lovely time of life,” she notes. She came to Maine some 30 years ago after living in New York and believes that decision was one of the best she and her husband ever made. Her spacious, well-lit studio is located in an upper floor of an old Bath brownstone, right above Front Street. The landlord has always welcomed artists; indeed, seeks them out.

Gerberick is of Finnish descent and her artwork is heavily influenced by her childhood growing up on a working farm in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Along with the haylofts, fields, and gardens, the farm was surrounded by swamps and forests, and she was given free rein to explore. She fondly recalled the story of roaming through the woods with the family dog, Scottie. While she would lose herself to the joys of discovering the wonders of the world, the dog was attentive to its master’s whistle back on the farm, and would gently grab her sleeve in his mouth and tug when it was time to go. Exploring freely left her with a deep-seated intuition, a willingness to explore, a reverence for the natural world, and a desire for contemplation.

Today, one of her favorite things to do is to sit quietly in the studio surrounded by her work and to read, sip tea and reflect. She loves “to have the pieces [within the studio] speak to each other” and will move them to new locations, once in a while. It is from her wellspring of contemplation that she moves forward with new work. Painting, collage, assemblage, “lots of drawing,” journaling—“any way to make a mark seems appropriate,” says the artist. She likes to begin a piece with “no big plans for what that piece will be,” preserving instead a sense of “wandering,” “reflection,” and “appreciation for the mysterious” instead. She sometimes makes art in response to her early years as a way of “keeping memories alive,” “being connected,” or “giving back.” She enjoys being alone.

 “People should be free to create. They need to have the courage to open their own doors. There have been so many ‘pluses’ in my life and so few ‘minuses.’ Great gifts come.”

She also believes she has no control of how her art goes into the world. “What will happen, will happen” and she is open to an inner dialogue that continues. “I am the work and the work is me,” says Marlene.

She enjoys meeting people at the local coffeehouse, talking to them, and listening to what they share. “Maine is full of individuated people,” she says, and by this she means creative, interesting, or unusual. “There is no one way to be,” says the artist.

Comments

  1. I did not know Marlene, but happened upon her studio one day recently… I was very moved and inspired by her work… grateful to have had that experience!
    Elaina

  2. Margaret Parsons says:

    Once again, I am moved to write about Marlene, who I revered as more than a friend. She was one of those people you meet who influence you for the rest of your life. I was drawn to her work for reasons I can’t fully explain and would have willingly sat in her studio all day just to hear her tell her stories and read from her writings. I will miss her very much; Bath has lost one of its art treasures.

  3. Peg Parsons says:

    I have had the good fortune to visit Marlene’s studio on several occasions. I always come away with a reverence for those things you may pass in the woods and not give a thought to. She is a genius at arranging the most unusual object into a thoughtful and gracious piece. She is one of Bath’s art treasures. And, she is also a poet, author, illustrator and so much more. She is my favorite character. Peg Parsons

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