Nancy Lehenbauer Marshall
Artist Nancy Marshall was born and raised along the Mississippi River. Midwestern roots inform her narrative paintings. She earned degrees from the University of Kansas and has lived in Lawrence, Kansas, since 1968. After teaching high school drawing, pottery and filmmaking she opened her studio for commissioned work in 1989. The artist often combines portrait, still life and landscape in her work, adding a multi-layered perspective to her paintings. Through creative expression Nancy advocates for the arts, education, and the environment. She is very grateful for art patrons.
“I have four pieces of Nancy’s work. each evoking special feelings, memories and thoughts. “The Flint Hills of Kansas” takes me home to one of my favorite Kansas spots, looking across the soft green hills surrounded by the huge prairie sky. “Donuts and Coffee” keeps me mellow, greeting me each morning as I set my espresso pot on the stove. “Artists’ Tribute” takes me away to memories of many wonderful evenings exchanging stories with cherished friends. One of those friends is Nancy. Then there is the piece I call “For the Love of Jim”. Nancy sent this special drawing to my husband not long after he was diagnosed with cancer. It is full of sweet memories and thoughts of my soul mate and forever love. Thank you Nancy for creating such special art for my life.”Joyce Cox, CA
“In my portrait, Ann, Nancy captured me in an intimate way….the way I turn in my feet, my chickens, my favorite suede shirt. This painting reflects the richness of her work. Its like you can reach in and touch and be a part of the New Mexico experience.”_Ann Lerner, NM
Lawrence Journal World article by Sara Shepherd
Nancy Marshall’s River Series paintings aren’t exactly landscapes. And they aren’t exactly still lifes. They’re both — depicted in saturated color and detail, with touches of mystery and fantasy that convey both nature’s beauty and people’s indulgence in a single frame.
Pieces from the River Series, Marshall’s most recent themed body of work, are the centerpiece of an exhibit in Parkville, Mo., and will be featured on this fall’s Lawrence Art Walk. The series joins other examples of Marshall’s signature work, including bird’s-eye tabletop scenes and portraits.
Marshall, who formerly taught art at Topeka High School, grew up in Hannibal, Mo., near the banks of the Mississippi River. For her, rivers represent adventure and freedom, and her own recreational voyages include canoeing on the upper Missouri, a Wilderness Society Camp in Rocky Mountain National Park and, in May, a rafting trip on the San Juan.
Her River Series paintings are more fantastic than photographic.
Canvasses depict still lifes — of sumptuous picnics with champagne and fruit or plein-air breakfasts with coffee and pastries — that give way to rivers, both swirling and placid, on the horizon. Wildlife dots the scenes, from butterflies alighting on a plate to distant blue herons partially obscured by mist.
Beyond the power and beauty of America’s rivers, Marshall is concerned with their ecological health and hopes her paintings might inspire social consciousness.
“I like the idea that people understand where their water comes from and the importance of having clean water,” she says. “It all comes down to political decisions that are made.”
In her portraits, Marshall also takes a carefully arranged approach.
Besides the likeness of her subjects, she inserts their prized possessions, their home landscapes and sometimes even their loved ones into the composition.
“We define ourselves by things we choose to have around us,” she says. “So putting those in a painting adds to who we are as a person.”
Topeka sculptor Jim Bass, whose late wife was a high school teaching colleague of Marshall’s, noted Marshall’s attention to detail and ability to balance color and composition. He also commended her portraiture.
“Portraits are scary things to take on,” Bass says. “She just jumps in there where angels fear to tread.”
Cindi Morrison, director of the Mulvane Art Museum at Topeka’s Washburn University, facilitated the purchase of one of Marshall’s bird’s-eye tabletop still lifes for the museum — entitled “Coffee and Cards by Candlelight” — and also bought two river-inspired prints for herself.
Morrison calls Marshall’s paintings “almost surrealistic.”
She notes the detail of a hamburger on a plate carried by the woman in “Ogallala Siren” and the mystery surrounding paintings of riverside picnics sans people — is someone getting ready to eat, mid-picnic or already finished?
“They’re like imaginary — kind of dreamlike — moments in time,” Morrison says. “That’s kind of what draws me to her work. It’s not your run-of-the-mill still life — it has extra layers to it.”
Photo by Richard Gwin