Marianne Barcellona

Artist's Website

In January of 2006, I served as the official photographer for Brown University’s archaeological excavations near the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt.

While visiting the Cairo Museum, I found myself unexpectedly transfixed by a collection of small wooden carvings in one particular glass case.  These exquisite little figures had the bearing of royal servants, and far from being generic, they each exhibited individual personalities.   I became haunted by their poignancy, tenderness, and vulnerability, and their auras of calm and benevolence.  They felt alive and sentient.  I later learned that they were probably created as reserve bodies for the soul, in the event that their mummies were destroyed.

When I returned to New York, images of the little figures kept surfacing in my mind, and I finally realized the need to create this still on-going body of work based on their presences.

Although I occasionally refer back to my photographs, when I began a painting I don’t necessarily know exactly “who” will finally emerge.  Every brushstroke or mark is a response to the one that went before, and each figure seems to dictate its own distinct character.  Most of these oil portraits go through many transformations, which usually include multiple re-paintings, sandings, scrapings, and applications of pigments In varied consistencies, from pasty thickness to silky transparency.  Weeks, moths and sometimes years are needed before a figure fully assumes its own final, unique presence.