Gesture of Trees


This series showcases artists at work. Each essay is succinct, introductory, and captures art in motion before labels are applied. MARSHA GOLDBERG says that she finds everything she is looking for in the landscape. She's too shy to say just what that is, but she has no problem sharing it with us in her paintings. She approaches the landscape with the authority of nature itself, with backbone. Her paintings are of trees, tall trunks, firmly rooted, branches extending in a felt, staccato motion, dark within a light space. They describe how they are with each other, how they are with us. These paintings give us a place to go, tell us where the earth is, where the sky is. They give us a sense of place.

Marsha Goldberg acknowledges that her colors are not what we expect to find in the landscape, but she promises that while they may be exaggerated, they come straight from the source. The colors describe the volume of air between and around her trees, the way real trees define the light and the wind. These colors treat us the same way nature does, giving us peace and calm, an embrace, a listen. Goldberg's tree paintings are gentle but strong, that curious quality we assume is a paradox.

A native of eastern Massachusetts, Goldberg discovered her feeling for the landscape while studying painting one summer at Skowhegan, Maine. Now she lives and works at the Brickbottom artists' community across the river from Boston in Somerville. Her affection for the landscape continues to grow. Her paintings detail her pleasure, something that is quickly apparent looking at them. They are happy paintings.

The idea of landscape painting is simple enough. Goldberg listens while the landscape talks. There is a little more simplicity to it as well because her response is very specific. What she chooses to hear and answer in the landscape has to do mostly with feeling and intuition. She reaches for the gestures of trees, how like figures they hold themselves. They have a physical language, and they motion to each other and to us. The trunks act in sympathy, bending together, or they turn from each other.

Sometimes the occasion described in a painting is dance, another time it is drama. It is almost always an intimate setting, the tree-figures fill the canvas, often with one farther upstage than the other, pushing the space back. We are given a sense about the place, something like smell, or temperature, or a change in the weather. We aren't given the kind of description we might ordinarily associate with landscape, instead it is more a question of mood and action. Goldberg paints these trees as if they were moving while she was trying to get them down. She happened upon them and quickly captured them interacting before they realized they were being watched.

Marsha Goldberg finds everything in the landscape. What she shares with us is her own affirmation. The affirmation that touching the landscape has touched in her.

It is something we all share inside of ourselves in our own quiet way. She has just managed to find a way to make the act of painting an expression of that very happy place of being.

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