A Pioneer in the Green Art Movement, Marlene T. Yu Synthesizes Eastern and Western Themes into Monumental Tributes to Nature
The Springfield Museums present The Essence of Nature: Paintings by Marlene T. Yu (Green Movement in Art) in the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, February 8-May 3, 2020.
Profoundly inspired by the natural world, Marlene T. Yu (Chinese-American, born 1937) creates monumental canvases using energetic brushstrokes and vibrant colors. Born in Taiwan and trained in Chinese brush painting as well as academic drawing, Yu came to the United States in 1963, where she was exposed to Abstract Expressionism. For over fifty years, the artist has synthesized Eastern and Western traditions to create immersive abstractions that evoke the power and beauty of nature.
“The Essence of Nature combines elemental images—earth, air, fire, water, ice, forest—in Yu’s unique ‘multi-dualistic’ style, focusing viewers on both the beauty and the fragility of our natural world,” said Maggie North, Acting Curator of Art for the Springfield Museums.
The phrase multi-dualism derives from Yu’s revolutionary art style. She illustrates multiple dualities: in her artwork, she mirrors themes in nature, blends physical and emotional subject matter, applies techniques she has developed from her Eastern and Western backgrounds to highlight global concerns, and provides opportunities to appreciate her paintings from different points of view.
Yu purposefully and effectively synthesizes themes in Chinese landscape painting and American Abstract Expressionism. By regarding nature with respect and awe, and personifying the subject matter with what she calls the “rhythm and movement of moods,” Yu establishes what some critics call “a dreamy borderline” between realism and abstraction.
“Marlene Tseng Yu’s paintings offer a visual intelligence that is beyond remarkable,” wrote art critic Robert C. Morgan in NY Arts. “Her lavish colors are hidden in the clouds, speaking a language that we do not understand—the language of the forest, the raging forest, given to primitive forces, pulsating torrents that are deeply embedded within the human mind.”
“With her unique style and compelling subject matter, plus her ability to evoke emotion,” North said, “Yu creates ‘activist art,’ art that demands a call to action, a non-passive sensibility.” Yu persistently plants seeds of awareness through bold, colorful, detailed, and technically sophisticated compositions that call to mind the artist’s own active painting process. She integrates ancient Eastern philosophy of art, such as representative negative space and yin and yang balance, with her own modern and masterful application of acrylic. Her compositions extend past the edges of the canvases, and often on a grand scale, allowing the viewer to be immersed in wonderment of her vast, imaginative portrayal of nature.
“Marlene Yu’s stunning monumental paintings push the boundaries of expression through vibrant colors and energetic brushstrokes,” said Heather Haskell, Vice President of the Springfield Museums and Director of the Art Museums. “Her unique vision encourages all of us to take a moment to appreciate the natural landscape around us and to work harder to preserve the world’s ecological bounty.”
A pioneer in the environmental green movement in art, in 2001 Yu founded the Rainforest Art Foundation to support other artists who share her desire to preserve Earth. The foundation’s mission is to increase appreciation of nature through art. Still a vital, working artist in her 80s, Yu’s prolific career includes over 4000 nature-inspired works across more than thirty-five themed art series.
“The Springfield Museums are honored to feature Marlene Yu’s monumental and revolutionary art,” said Kay Simpson, President and CEO of the Springfield Museums. “We are eager to share her vision and sensibilities with our visitors and raise awareness of the environmental themes her work illuminates.”
About the Artist
Marlene Tseng Yu was born in Taiwan in 1937 and came to the United States in 1963. From 1969 to 2007, she lived and worked in SoHo, New York City, and in 2008, opened a studio in Long Island City. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei in 1960, and her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1967. She taught art at Denver University in Colorado in 1967 and 1968. Since 1994, she has been on the Advisory Committee of the Fine Arts Department of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Since 1995, she has curated exhibitions for the new art movement, “Forces of Nature.” Yu is Founder and Curator of the Rain Forest Art Foundation (2001 to present). In 2014, she established her own museum in Shreveport, Louisiana, the Marlene Yu Museum.
As of June 30, 2019, Yu has had 81 solo exhibitions in the United States, Europe, and the Far East, and has participated in numerous international group shows.
Yu’s art has been reviewed in nine languages in more than 300 publications, by numerous art magazines, newspapers, TV, and radio shows, such as ARTFORUM, Art in America, Art News, World Journal, and Barbara Walters’ Today Show.
The artist has received many awards for achievement in the arts. In 2005, she received the first “Muse” Fine Arts Award in the Muralist Paintings category at the inaugural ARTV Awards in Las Vegas.
For more than fifty years of creation, Yu has completed 4,800 paintings, of which over 1,000 are in public and private collections.
“The beauty of the universe changes with time. As the days pass and the seasons change, the sky, earth, mountains and rivers repeat in patterns that are never really quite the same. In my search for the variations of the many faces in nature, I have found that nature provides an infinite source of inspiration for artistic expression. I love the many elements in our environment, be they as broad as the horizon beyond or small as cells under the microscope. In this vast setting, I hope to capture the spirit of the universe, its rhythm and movements, its quiet and angry moods, its colors and forms . . .With the traditional Chinese and Western art training, together with my own experiments, I have sought to create techniques that can fully express my ideas and feelings. The techniques may vary greatly from painting to painting, as to embody the scope of my expression. The reference to nature is the focus of all my paintings. I have found that painting in water media – acrylic demands an absolute control of the medium to achieve the various effects, textures, and transparencies. The scale of the painting is a challenge, but not a limitation for me. To produce on canvas or paper what I have in my mind, my ideas and feelings on the universe, is a great challenge.”—September 16, 1968
“Even after thirty years of work on the Abstraction in Nature Series, my art continues to focus on the beauty of nature, calling for appreciation and awareness of what needs to be done to preserve our environment. I hope my efforts in the Environmental Green Movement in art prove to be substantial and that my art is both timely and timeless.”—January 16, 1998
“The Glacier Melting Series started in 1965. It has continued through 2008, for it is my favorite subject. Without my realizing it, the series reflects what has become one of the most important issues today, as human lifestyles and habits increase global warming and cause glaciers to melt rapidly. I hope through my art to convey the urgent message—earth is in danger, please let us protect it together.”—April 22, 2008