Marcia Dale Dullum


Sometimes we are drawn to people, places or things and initially we don’t understand why. I contacted MARCIA DALE DULLUM two years ago because I was drawn to a particular painting by her and wanted more information.

We decided to meet at her studio, and when Marcia started explaining her creative process and the thinking behind the artwork, I guess my facial expression changed because she asked why, so I showed her my arm. I had goosebumps. The artwork, as Marcia described it, was about returning home and the curves and smells of Mississippi. Like Marcia, I have roots in Mississippi and I knew in that instant why I unconsciously kept coming back to that piece of art.

absent-agendaAbsent Agenda

Based in Northern Virginia, Marcia paints mostly in acrylic sometimes adding nuances in charcoal, graphite, oil and collage. She paints in an abstract form and feels that a conversion to abstract painting has opened her world and validated self-discovery on a deeper unconscious level. As you can see from some of my favorites shown here, Marcia loves color, paints with such a controlled emotion and I always find myself wondering about the people in her paintings, wanting to know their stories.

The art world can be so intimidating and I am grateful that the always charming and compassionate Marcia agreed to be interviewed about her work, so that we all can learn something about the artistic process. For me, understanding the artist allows me to appreciate the artwork that much more. And I am sure that you will agree that, just like most great artists, Marcia is a wonderful storyteller.

new poet series #1New Poet Series #1

When did you first realize you had talent as an artist?
Ah! My favorite question! When I was six I established my first “art studio” on the family room floor. There I would immerse myself in another world, creating and indulging from the endless array of color choices offered by the flip-top box of Crayolas. I now recall the profound impact this one particular experience had on me. Several buoyantly bouncing clowns emerged from my imagination onto paper. They appeared as contortionists, vividly clad in tattered green skirts, flaunting their comical movements while ironically radiating great joy through their innocence. I still feel happy whenever I think of them. And though they were just a figment of my imagination, they are still very real to me, very much like the characters appearing in my figurative work today. Time passed, my art supplies grew more sophisticated (although I still possess the remains of my Windsor Newton beginners’ oil set) and years later my studio on the Potomac River now serves as a playground for me, as if I were still drawing clowns.

Which artists have most influenced your work?
I go through various phases of who influences me and deposit bits and pieces of their work into my memory bank which includes a wide array of Abstract Expressionists. Sometimes the artist’s life history intrigues me as much as their work. Lately, I have been researching Nicolas de Stael (Russian 1914-1955). One might describe my work as a vague reflection of the diversity of his abstracted still life, figure, and pure abstraction. Like de Stael, much of my work is painted with a palette knife and I am intrigued by his textural use, style of simplification and tactile quality. I am also impacted by the figurative drawings of Kathe Kollwitz (Prussian 1867-1945) depicting human suffering and oppression. Like her critics, I am drawn to her sensitive and compassionate nature, even though her work reflects the darker elements of humanity. Art, in its power, is not always beautiful.

I love that, “Art, in its power, is not always beautiful”. Now, you’ve said you are most comfortable painting abstracts, why?
Over the years, I obediently followed inside the lines of classical training and formal education in fine arts and have painted from “what my eye sees”. Seven years ago, intuition called and I followed. Having studied relatively little about abstract art, I naively assumed that work abstractly would “loosen up” my predictable style, improving the quality of my representational work. A pre-conceived notion that proved me wrong. As a result of this personal renaissance, I discovered that I can instead “paint what my mind sees”, rewarding me freedom from structure and greater satisfaction in working with lesser rules and restrictions. Today, working in abstraction, I travel back into time…go home to my studio on the family room floor…back into the innocence of uninhibited creativity.

queen of heartsQueen of Hearts

What is more important: light or color?
Technically speaking, light is more important, without it color simply cannot exist. Color is only a perception because light exists. The emphasis of light creates more interest in representational work, while color theory and other relationships are just as important in abstract work. Last month, Washington, DC’s Hirshhorn Museum exhibited an excellent visual explanation of color theory by artist and educator, Josef Albers.

Marcia, what inspires you?
Everything we see or cannot see is the result of creation and an origin for inspiration. I am not always immediately aware whenever something moves me. For example, I recently attended the Terracotta Warriors exhibit presented by the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC. Afterwards, I was painting in my studio and much to my surprise these warrior-like figures appeared without my conscious intentions. I assume that my mind is unconsciously and continuously recording creative data. Whether these recorded ideas are the result of observing an interesting shape, form, or color in nature while driving home on the parkway, or having an intangible meaningful encounter with someone, the thoughts and ideas somehow undergo a metamorphism into a painting evoking its meaning.

Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to visit Cuba on an art and education tour. Strolling the streets of a small village in the Pino del Rio region, I spotted an easel in the courtyard of an artist’s home. My guide encouraged me to go inside where I met Roberto. I have always admired the primitive style of self-taught artists and envied their work unspoiled by the “technique of correctness”. Ending my private viewing of his plein air painted landscapes, Roberto reluctantly presented his work that had been commissioned by the state for a local exhibit. He surprised me with one of these “state” paintings…atop an American flag, which serves as a tablecloth, rests a feast of sorts…a breadbasket full of munitions and a “bottle of US Army” depicting a skull and crossbones label. Fascinated by this work, Roberto insisted that I take this painting as a souvenir. Words cannot describe how much this gift inspired me as an artist and the inspiration of this encounter will deeply remain with me.

risk cycleRisk Cycle

What books are you currently reading?
Ish by Peter H. Reynolds. A charming and philosophical parable about a little boy who loves to draw. A five minute must-read for any age.

What is your favorite time of day?
I’m nocturnal. I enter the “compulsive zone” if I am creating at night. Back in my college days, it was not unusual for the sun to ascend upon a late night painting session.

Do you accept commissions?
Sometimes pre-conceived ideas about a painting inhibit the natural flow of creativity and the work becomes less authentic. Most of my work evolves from a sense of freedom, intuition and spontaneity, therefore, I prefer not to accept formal commissions.


What advice do you have for young artists?
I generally refrain from giving advice since I am unaware of another artist’s needs, however I feel a sense of duty to pass along to others what has been gifted to me. In 1998, I emerged into painting again after a long hiatus. (Careers have a way of suffocating your creative time and ambition) I was impatient and longed for immediate quality in my work. “Paint, Marcia, just paint”, was advice I heard from a mentor. Several years of studying passed before I had the “ah-ha” experience and finally understood what she meant. I began to see my work develop its own style, I liked what I saw and it felt good. So, pardon me if this seems like advice: “Just Paint!” and you will see.

Do you have advice for someone wanting to purchase art?
Trust your own intuition and purchase what draws you in, even if you don’t consciously identify why. If possible, meet the artist to learn more of what drives their passion and to personalize your purchase. Art ownership possesses so much more internal value when you invite someone else’s work to become a part of you.

Interviewed April 2010 by Yolanda, editor Zavvi
© Zavvi 2010. No part of this interview may be used or reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the Editor of Zavvi
Marcia can be contacted through

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