Travel to Hawaii

I had two big travel dreams that seemed to go back to some distant vision of what “far away” meant. One was Alaska. One was Hawaii. As it got close to planning the Hawaii trip, I tried to recall more of why I wanted to go there. Logistics are hard and I needed a new reason. I thought and thought, and then I remembered a friend, perhaps in college, telling me that the Hawaiian Islands had a fragrance and the spiritual presence of a goddess, and that once you were there you would not want to leave.

Sure enough, she was correct. There is a feeling, at least where we went on the Big Island, that is indescribable. I will share a few photos, and a painting inspired by a walk over black lava rock to the “black sand beach” of Pahoa.

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encaustic (pigmented beeswax and damar resin) on wood, 18”x18”

Travel part 1

I am musing about travel, and why it seems so important to me now, why I dream it and love it.

My childhood was spent in a small apartment in University City, on the edge of St. Louis. As a family we  traveled only once during my first 18 years or so, to a farm in the Ozarks of southeast Missouri. It was called "Mae and Belle's Farm." I was told that I begged to return. Here is a photo of me at the farm. Clearly I liked being there. I can still recall the feeling of being around so many trees.

I wanted to see the rest of the world. "Digging to China" with a small shovel got me nowhere, but I was able to travel vicariously via my stamp collection. I no longer have those gorgeous stamps but I do have a vivid memory of a stamp of a giraffe in Mozambique, and one of a Camaroon woman carrying a jug on her head.

One of my favorite images. I knew that the world must be bigger than my neighborhood!

One of my favorite images. I knew that the world must be bigger than my neighborhood!

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My Aunt Mildred told us she had traveled solo "around the world," which I and my sister did not believe. I treasured my castanets from Jamaica, but assumed that’s what she meant by around the world - to Jamaica. Only in the last decade or so did I find an old photo of her on a camel in Egypt!


Years ago I asked myself what my big dream was, as a person, and as an artist. Every time only one answer came up. The answer was not fame and fortune. It was not getting my work into a hotshot gallery or the Hirshhorn Museum. The answer was travel. I hardly knew what it meant, but there it was, over and over. Finally, well over a decade ago, my husband and I began to “travel.” Already in love with New York City, we crossed bodies of water to see new lands and new cultures. We went to Prague, to Costa Rica twice, to Paris, to Vieques three times….. and in the last 2-3 years to Alaska and Hawaii. There is a part of me that is ravenous - the little girl part that got as far as the farm in the Ozarks and still wants the whole world - and the grown up woman artist who is is GETTING the world and is feeling nourished and inspired by every little bit.

Shifting Sands: Some old some new and some in between

I am getting ready for a solo show in the Hall Gallery at Artists and Makers. There are so many myths about what artists should show (new work that shows a clear new direction) and what they should not (older work from last year or the year before.) But what artists? and where? and why? and who makes these rules anyway? Who do they serve? Do they aid creativity and fun and sharing the gifts we artists can give?

I won't write out all my thoughts here. There are many, and I have no clear answers at all. But I can feel the pressure of old myths around exhibits, and at the same time resist, and explore (and show) the shifts in my work from last year, the year before, from earlier this year, and even this very month!

The exhibit title is "Flow." I will be hanging a range of paintings, and maybe the shifts will become clearer to me. Where is the point where bits of sand and shell became rose petals and sand flowers and then became circles of bubbles and then suggestions of pink and purple azaleas in my neighborhood?  Is there such a point, or does the art flow on its own to where it needs to go? And then an outer shift, a trip to Hawaii where I expected to soak up more sand inspiration but was drawn continually to the flora. I can see what looks like something new - the bursting seed pods, the bright orange petals. More form, more reference to something specific. But new? More important to show? Or are these seeming shifts about my continually changing perspective on the forms and textures and energies in nature?

"FLOW" will be up in the Hall Gallery at Artists and Makers from April 6-April 26. The Opening Reception is Friday night April 6, from 6-9 pm. A special "open studios" weekend will follow on April 7-8, and I will be there a good bit of the time. Address: 11810 Parklawn Drive, Rockville MD. Entrance is in the back of the building. Enter far right to be near my exhibit. Parking behind and near the building.

Open Studio Reflections

My Open Studio and Small Works Sale was a huge success!! The sales, framing and business wrap-up is finally complete. Such an intense time there in December, with the big event on Saturday afternoon, a house concert here on Saturday night, day 2 of the Open Studio on Sunday, and then off to New York City two days later. Intensity was the name of the game that month! On the way back from New York I realized that my studio had not been touched since the weekend before; all was still in place. And voila! a great idea: I sent out a late night reminder to my closest neighbors, just in case they had forgotten how easy would be to come by the very next day, Sunday.

It all worked beautifully. Three Open Studio days across two weekends allowed people plenty of flexibility. Many friends and neighbors came, despite the cold weather. People I hadn't seen in years drove from as far as Baltimore. We had long three person conversations, often between people who didn't know each other, about how we see the world, personal vision, the deeper sources of art, religion and spirituality.

Since then we have been to Hawaii, to NYC three times, and finally I am back in the studio. Below are some of the images of work sold (two small ones, and two 18"x18") ) during the Open Studio, and a few of my happy collectors.


It's the season of artists holiday open studio sales. I am thinking about this, my enthusiasm and my hesitation. I think the latter stems from an old not particularly useful belief that genuine art making has nothing to do with art "marketing." Nevertheless, my enthusiasm appears to be constant.

The truth is that my work belongs in other people's hearts, homes, and minds. I understand that now - that we artists don't create just for ourselves, but whether we know it or not, we create to communicate with other human beings. In my case, for the last 15 years my art has grown from a deep response to the natural world - from rainforests, country landscape, oceans, seashells, and sandscapes, to the flora in my own neighborhood. I take in things with my eyes and with an indescribable sense of reverence.

I have heard and read that what keeps a painter going, and going, is the desire to reach something unreachable. I think that is true in my case. I can see bits of what the artist in me is wanting, but only bits. And now, with nature as my inspiration, I am never able to reach what brings me that sense of awe and reverence. God, the universe, the ineffable, whatever it is called, remains inexpressible.

Below are a few images of my recent work, and some of the flora that have inspired me. Thank you for reading, and please join me at:


an art exhibit, small works shop + open studio weekend

DECEMBER 9, 12-3pm, + December 10, 2-5pm

At Marilyn Banner Studio: 7502 Flower Avenue (Rear), Takoma Park, MD.

Art Roadtrip and One House Update

We took our first ever art roadtrip this this summer. The idea was to head up to Mass MoCA, stopping at Dia:Beacon and seeing some small towns in the Hudson River Valley area. Getting out of DC was essential. Just getting "out" was basic.
We scheduled only the first night (Nyack) and near the end, three nights in Williamstown Mass, very close to North Adams and Mass MoCA. The rest of the time we winged it.

The art we saw was pretty overwhelming and mind boggling. Dia Beacon was off the charts in scale and in the scope of art in those humongous spaces. The Joseph Beuys sound room with huge rolls and stacks of felt was the highlight for my sound sensitive musician husband. He understood it immediately and hung out in there. My highlights were the extensive survey of John Chamberlain's steel sculptures - they looked like colorful abstract expressionist paintings come to life in 3D. There were installations by Robert Morris, Robert Smithson, and Louise Bourgeois, and many others. The place feels like a small city with skyscrapers - the space around and above me was almost too much. 

From Dia: Beacon we headed north to Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. Our main goal was to see the work of Anselm Kiefer, my favorite living artist. I was rewarded with three enormous rooms of his work,  including The Women of the Revolution, created in 1992, comprised of more than twenty lead beds with photographs and wall text.  An unbelievable array of installation work by Nick Cave was the headliner when we were there, and I was awed by the work. One question he asked was "Are there Black people in heaven?" James Turrell's work took us to another world of ethereal light and space. We hung out there for a while in heaven. So many gourmet meals .... I was nourished with as much art as I could handle. Below are some random shots from Mass MoCA and Hudson NY.

Last but in no way least is THE ONE HOUSE PROJECT that I am involved in. The opening is Friday November 3 from 6-8:30 pm, and there are 3 more events scheduled. So far there are 223 artists who have created "ancestor panels," each one giving image and voice to an ancestor (or themselves) who has come to the United States from another country. The spread of countries and situations that brought the people here is pretty awesome, as is the variety and beauty of the individual works. You can see them here.  All are now installed, creating the One House structure in Touchstone Gallery here in DC. I will be leading a workshop on November 18 in which you can create your own panel to take home. Limited to 20. To sign up contact Ksenia Grishkova at 202-347-2787 or

Touchstone is located at 901 New York Ave NW Washington DC 20001

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