A Blast From My Mom's Past

A friend of mine e-mailed the following Sacramento Bee article about my mother, Mary Marshall, and me. It brought back some amazing memories as mom and I were being profiled for a special showing the Crocker Art Museum was having on our artwork in 2000. I hope you enjoy the article and learn a little about my remarkable mom!

NOTE: The Blue Moon Gallery will feature my and my mom's artwork in June 2010.

Mom's prints are available HERE

SACRAMENTO BEE February 2000, People Edition
By: Celia Lamb

If art is an expression of the soul, then African ancestors speak through the hands of mother and daughter artists Mary and Kanika Marshall.

Kanika sculpts with clay, and Mary prefers to work with watercolors. But they share the goal of creating art inspired by the cultures of a continent they have never seen but are connected to by blood.

In recognition of Black History Month, the Marshalls' Africa-influenced art will be on display at the Crocker Art Museum store Feb. 19 and 20.

Mary, who lives near Mack Road and Stockton Boulevard, began painting about 10 years ago. At that time, she retired from a career in school administration that included serving as principal at Bret Harte Elementary School in Curtis Park, Camellia Elementary School in Elder Creek and Pony Express Elementary School in South Land Park Hills.

Mary always had planned to explore her interest in art after she retired. She enrolled in art classes at Cosumnes River College, experimenting with various media before focusing on watercolors.

"You just can't get any other medium to do that wonderful juicy feel that you get from watercolor," Mary said.

Artistic talent clearly runs in the family. Mary said she encouraged Kanika's childhood interest in art. "One of the things I know I did, and I wish more parents would do, is that instead of just buying the plastic, premade (toys), we always had the crayons and the paper and the pens," Mary said.

Kanika, a resident of Elk Grove, took up art later in life as a means of exploring her heritage. "In the 1970s, when I was in my 20s, I was searching for my identity," Kanika said. "I'm very fair-skinned, so I didn't fit well into either the black or white cultures." At about that time, Kanika read Alex Haley's epic novel "Roots," which told the story of Haley's African and African-American ancestors.

"That got me on a mission to learn more about African cultures," she said.

Kanika studied African history at California State University, Sacramento. She also took a pottery class at CSUS from artist Ruth Rippon. "Pottery was really making cups and bowls and plates, but I wasn't doing that. I was doing this," she said, holding up an African-style mask. "I was trying to do this on the sly."

Later she enrolled in art classes taught by sculptor Yoshio Taylor at Cosumnes River College. "He was just a great inspiration," says Kanika. "He's a Japanese American, so the influences of his culture definitely are displayed in his work."

Under Taylor's tutelage, Kanika said, she began to explore the African influences in her work. She said she is inspired by West African influences, creating proud clay figures wearing traditional brightly colored fabrics and flashy headdresses. Sometimes she depicts people from East African cultures with simpler, lighter-colored clothing. She recently made a figure of a southeast African Zulu warrior carrying a spear and shield and wearing white and blue garments. She also sculpts clay masks and pendants.

Kanika says she likes the tactile sensations of working with clay.

"I don't think a lot about what I do. It comes through my hands," she explained. "It's kind of exciting for me, too, to see what's going to come out in the end."

Many of Mary's paintings depict Kanika's sculptures. Mary also paints images of African people, still lifes and abstracts. Painting abstracts isn't easy, she said. It takes time to develop a style. "If I had my way, I'd do all abstracts, but I'm working my way up to that," she said.

Kanika began showing her work in 1993. Her mother joined her a couple of years later.

Kanika's works have been displayed at the former I.D.E.A. Gallery in Oak Park, the Barton Gallery and the Blooming Art Gallery in midtown, the Sacramento Fine Arts Center in Carmichael and the Auburn Arts Centern. The two women also have participated in various art shows and competitions in Sacramento and the Bay Area.

Kanika and Mary displayed their work at the Crocker Art Museum, 216 O St., in the 1998 and 1999 holiday art shows. February's showing in the museum store will feature only their work, Kanika said.

Celia Lamb

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Every year since 1993 I have submitted artwork for consideration for the State Fair Fine Art Show. I have been fortunate the last seven or so years to submit pieces the judges-of-the-year found worthy to be in the show to win awards. There are several different categories among the major visual art arena that artists may enter, sculpture, ceramics, and mixed media. There are also some special categories, such as cultural, wine, and equestrian. Each year, I try to enter at least one of the special categories. This year I tried for the wine category with "The Wine Tasting."

A group of African women in beautiful, long flowing gowns sipping wine. Different types of wines and wine glasses line the right side. Different types of wine grapes align the left side. Yes, maybe this would be best in the cultural category, but it's always fun to try something different!

So why is this on my Cancer Survivor Blog? Why not? It is a celebration of life, of wine, of good friends, of gratitude, or acceptance, of fun.