Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Nature in her quiet mood": the subtle light of Marietje Chamberlain

"Evening Catch," 12" x 16"
Art brings us solace we didn't know we needed; a deep, still landscape can stir hidden, mysterious joys. To capture that elusive feeling, which she dubs "nature in her quiet mood," Torpedo Factory painter Marietje Chamberlain studies the subtle effects of light at dawn or dusk—and last week, a bustling institution in the D.C. area decided to share in the artist's sense of calm.

Through March 7, 2014, several of Chamberlain's oil paintings will hang in the gallery at the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. These rich landscapes will encourage passersby to pause and reflect—and, perhaps, to notice the artist's openness to experimentation.

"I tried a new alla prima approach with a few paintings, and I like the results," Chamberlain says. "The paintings were each done within a few hours and have a fresh look about them. I worked with only three colors on a white surface; my medium was pure linseed oil, to keep the paint from drying quickly. I used not only one large brush, but also wads of Bounty paper towels, either crushed or folded, for sharper edges."

"First Snow," 12" x 24"
Chamberlain recently visited NIH to see her paintings on display, but in the weeks ahead, she won't be there to witness all of the round-the-clock reactions. Instead, she'll seek inspiration in her Torpedo Factory studio, where the public's reaction to her work is often as delightful to her as her work is to them.

"A group of Brownies under escort recently came into my studio," she says. "The little girls had so many rapid-fire questions, all of them very interesting. I was asked if I ever painted cheerleaders.

"'I don’t believe I ever have,' I replied. 'Why don’t you show me how?' The eight-year-old made a wonderful drawing of three cheerleaders jumping about. We parted with my asking her to come back in about six months and see if I had completed this painting. Four little girls broke into large smiles, came over to where I was sitting, and each gave me a large hug! It was a heartwarmer."

Meet Marietje Chamberlain at the Torpedo Factory in studio 225, and see more of her work at

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