Marilyn Caldwell Pushes the Envelope

Three years ago, painter Marilyn Caldwell abandoned her work in watercolors and plunged into oils and acrylics.

She hasn’t looked back.

“The tail started wagging the dog,” she says.  “The collectors all wanted the same thing, but I needed to go beyond – and I just did.”

She’d been working in the unforgiving medium since she was a student, trained classically at the Rhode Island School of Design in the early 1950s.  Once she left school, her work sold well, which she found to be both a blessing and a curse.

One of her paintings, “Stars and Stripes in the East Room,” was included in the White House Historical Society’s calendar, marking the 200th year of occupancy in the White House. Thomas Hoving, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, purchased two of her watercolors. One hung in his dining room and the other behind his desk at Connoisseur magazine.

Her work is different now, though.

“I was a realist, but now I’m much more abstract.”  These days, she counts among her influences Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler and Mark Rothko.

Now when she sits down paint, all bets are off.  “You forget everything you’ve known up to that point about how to paint,” she says.  “The painter takes over – I strive for that moment.”

The result?

Paintings that feel like something, rather than look like it.  She wants the viewer to experience a storm even if it can’t be seen literally on canvas.  “Nothing is defined for an artist,” she says.

She strives not for the literal, but for the essence, with certain criteria in mind that she wants to reach.

“What matters is the matter,” she says.  “It’s about what’s inside – the observation or the statement.  Is it anger or beauty or joy?  Then, what’s happening with the color, the form and the composition?”

To find out, you’ll need to go to her opening tonight at the Caldwell Galleries in Madison, Conn., from 6 to 8 PM.  And don’t worry about parking – there’s plenty behind the post office.

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