As a multidisciplinary abstract artist, my work frequently reflects multiple instincts, pulling into a single piece ideas and feelings from opposing extremes. For most of my life, my artistic passion has been governed by my interest in social justice issues—from feminism and the invisible workforce to disability rights and health care. I’m driven by my belief that hard work can prevent us from returning to the systemic inequalities of the nineteenth century, and abstract painting allows me to wrestle between two worldviews: a hard anger over today’s injustices versus a softer appreciation for the hope that social justice work creates.
My personal life has encompassed similar extremes. I have experienced painful losses, sexual violence, and financial insecurity. But I also have the joy brought by my beautiful children, my graduate studies, and my art career. When I paint, these contradictory experiences come together into an obscure puzzle. Bright splashes of color spill across a background of grey shadows. Squared patterns compete with scrawls of looped color. Dense and textured lines drip beyond their boundaries, gesturing toward the contrasting polarities that all of my work investigates. Whether through the integration of lines of poetry, portraiture, collage, or suggestive lace overlays, all of my abstract work breaks down the certainty I wish I could feel about our world, but don’t. Instead, my paintings engage with the complicated moment in history we are all facing, and that most of us also face privately. These are moments that can feel simultaneously desperate and filled with inspiration about the change that might be possible.
Kelly Marshall followed her BA in Applied Art and Design with a career as a special education art teacher, helping students of diverse abilities in the classroom and in her children’s art studio. Marshall is in the second year of a Low Residency MFA program at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Visual Studies. She lives with her family, runs a studio classroom, and paints from her professional studio at Art on 30th in San Diego’s North Park.