Influenced By Picasso, But Not Like Picasso


By: Marcella Hayes Muhammad / Artist

Hey Marcella, I recognize your work! It’s just like Picasso! I must have heard that too many times and still wince every time I hear it.

To the untrained eye, I can see how one would not really notice the differences. Sort of the untrained eye looking at a Honda vehicle and not noticing the difference between it and the Toyota parked next to it. A car is a car, right? An abstract, to the untrained eye, that kind of looks alike is the same…right?

My signature style of Plastic Space abstract is in fact, directly influenced by the great artist Pablo Picasso and his cubist style. Pablo Ruiz Picasso, also known as Pablo Picasso, was a Spanish painter, sculptor, print-maker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet and playwright who spent most of his adult life in France.

In art school I was challenged to study a so called master painter and copy their style until I was comfortable with it. My choice was Pablo Picasso simply because he was the only artist of the times that actually gave credit to African sculptors as an influence for him. And I was blessed to visit his art museum in France. So I studied his cubism and learned the process. Then I had to extend myself from that style and create my own version, and Plastic Space was born.

There is a unique difference in the application, method, style, color palette, subject matter and direction of Plastic Space. The example above shows my painting, Third Generation, next to one of Pablo Picasso’s paintings, A Girl Before A Mirror. Amazing how one can be influenced by subliminal memory and not realize how much. I painted mine in 2005 and two years later, was looking through a book about Pablo Picasso when I saw his, A Girl Before A Mirror and remembered my painting. I know that in my studies, I must have seen this particular image and forgotten it but somehow it stuck in my subliminal memory. So here I was painting an image that I thought was my own idea but in my signature style of Plastic Space. My studies were done in 1972 and the idea was baking for 33 years before appearing in its form, Third Generation. Nothing is new except for the presentation!

Notice the two images and the differences between them. In Picasso’s painting, the visual planes of the subject are analyzed, flattened and reconstructed in intersecting, sometimes transparent planes that simultaneously depict the subject from various viewpoints. It is a faceting technique to create an abstract image where color plays a secondary role and there is a liberation of form.

The difference in my painting is that it goes beyond flat linear planes and explores the curvature of light around an object from a three dimensional perspective. You will notice color plays a very important role in the composition as well as the use of curves instead of angles. There is a special amount of attention paid to the depth and form on the two dimensional surface to keep things moving and not flat. I also try to provide a large amount of recognizable images in my composition to hold the interest of the viewer. And there is a lot more going on in that mirror than just a reflection. In the mirror is a reflection of two generations of women. One as a free African and the other as a a made slave.

So dear reader, no matter how many times I get discouraged, I will not give up. I will continue to grow and paint and one day someone will say, “Hey, your work is just like a Marcella Muhammad!”

Never give up, never surrender!!


Marcella is a visual artist that made a leap of faith in 1995 and took an early retirement from a successful elementary teaching career of 27 years. She and her husband moved from California to the Atlanta area to continue as a full time artist. She has a formal education in the arts, and has been a creative visual artist for over 40 years.

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