The Tipping Point

From 1943 to 1960 I grew up in a traveling military household where my mother was an accomplished artist / housewife and my father began as a flight instructor to Tuskegee Airmen and became a career Air Force officer. I had a younger brother and baby sister. Everywhere we traveled, my mother made sure to visit every museum and art gallery that was available. She would always keep us occupied with art projects at home. Because of this military life of moving every three years, we were often isolated as the only Black family in the officer’s area on base. School was very isolated and I was often the only Black student in class. I found art as an escape from the micro-aggression and outright racism exploring watercolors and painting landscapes and still life settings. This is how I grew up, and when my father retired in California, it was no different. My graduating university refused to allow me to have my required senior exhibit in their gallery and I had to have it in the local Junior College because I knew the art director there. Another example of micro-aggression by claiming there was no more open dates for me to exhibit even though all the graduating white students got a date and the only Black student (me) was out. I did not get to experience HBCU’s or growing up with my people around me. I learned how to survive in isolation and art was my refuge. In college, I was introduced to oils and explored realism painting portraits and the human figure. Eventually I was challenged by my instructor to choose a famous artist, copy that style and develop my own style from that. In 1972 there was still nothing of significance in the libraries about Black artists.  I chose Pablo Picasso and his cubism because he was the only artist I knew at the time that admired African art. From that study, I developed my signature style of abstraction that I named Plastic Space and used this style to explored still life settings.

The beginning of my tipping point was in 1979 when I discovered Lois Mailou Jones in an Ebony magazine article and was inspired by her work. This changed the direction of my work to explore images of my culture. My greatest tipping point is the move to Georgia after my retirement from teaching. I had more opportunity to explore my culture and became involved within the Black art community. This is where my work became more focused into bodies of work exploring masks from around the world, musical instruments and figurative abstraction in my signature Plastic Space. I still do realism to tell stories, for portraits and for licensing and design application, but abstraction challenges me and is my preferred personal best.


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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