USFCAM Intern Perspective: Bruce Marsh, Rapids II

USFCAM will feature Bruce Marsh’s Rapids II (1978) as part of Selected, the last exhibition in Museum at Work. Marsh himself was a Professor  of Art at USF from 1968 until 2003 and is now Professor Emeritus. Originally from California, Marsh has established himself in the Florida art community and his works are immensely popular locally.

A meticulous artist, Marsh’s paintings take on a hyper realistic style nearly indistinguishable from a photograph. He captures light with paint, suspending what he sees on the canvas in order to explore the relationship between seeing and recording, a process that fascinates him.

On his stylistic choices, Marsh says: “I make my paintings ‘realistic’ as a result of my lifelong practice, and my obsessive interest, in working from close and sustained observation. The process of seeing, and of trying to make and invent a record of that experience, has always been my conscious focus. I hope that this process of attending to the correspondence between seeing and making, between light and paint, can lead to making things which are unexpected, certainly non-verbal, and which may reflect my values and world view in a way I could never achieve through conscious intention.”

The primary subjects of his paintings are landscapes. Through creating an accurate portrayal of what he sees, Marsh presents an introspective look at the natural world. These depictions of nature call to mind a sense of peace and tranquility under the regular turmoil of everyday life, forming an organic stability.

Rapids II is an oil landscape painting of the rapids at the Hillsborough River State Park. It captures a snapshot in time, but it is a moment that encompasses every element present, from the sunshine catching on nearby bark to ripples of light in the river. Due to the accurate detail, staring at Rapids II is much like looking at the actual rapids that inspired it. However, Rapids II is not only a realistic rendition of its subject, but also an idealized likeness of nature. “On reflection I realize that I have primarily painted an extremely orderly and coherent world. The moving water always frozen in a moment, a world without the mess and chaos of daily experience. The term Idealistic comes to mind,” Marsh remarks.

Completed between two and three weeks, Rapids II provided a spectrum of emotions for the artist. Marsh recalls being “alternately bored, delighted, tired, sober, drunk, daydreaming, pissed off, distracted, planning a class, listening to an old movie, ad infinitum” during its creation. He describes these as the everyday thoughts and emotions that color our lives. In the midst of these daily feelings, Marsh strived for moments of satisfaction and delight with the painting.

When it comes to viewing the piece, Marsh has no one message to convey but he believes observers should keep the following in mind when looking at his artwork: “Viewers will bring anything and everything, as usual, to the experience. A full experience of any Art will first be the result of close and careful observation and description. This should be done as objectively as possible, with a suspension of judgement! After making as complete description as possible, ask how the parts relate or not (analysis), then proceed to interpretation…content, intention, relevance.”

Bruce MarshRapids II, 1978oil on canvas48 x 60 in.
Bruce Marsh. Rapids II, 1978. oil on canvas. 48 x 60 inches.

Visitors will have the chance to see and interpret Rapids II for themselves by coming to Selected. USFCAM welcomes all observers. The exhibit closes on July 25, 2015, the final day of Museum at Work.

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