Marsha Heller, oboist and painter

Marsha Heller, oboist and painter

Featured Artist interview with musician and visual artist Marsha Heller – August 2018

How have you been able to balance your career as a professional musician with being a visual artist?
I’ve balanced the two by doing not much else besides playing, including practicing (which I do first thing in the morning), rehearsing and concerts, and painting at least a little while every day, if not for hours and hours.

How did you get started in art?  Did you always know you were going to be an artist?
I got started in art in kindergarten, like everyone else. I did not know that I would become an artist, who works at it every day and shows her art to the public.  I have been exhibiting art since 1987.

When did you begin your career as a musician?
57 years ago! I have been playing the oboe professionally since 1961.  I studied oboe and art history at Oberlin College, and after graduating, I immediately got a job with the Atlanta Symphony.  I moved to New York City in 1962 when, serendipitously, Stokowski was forming the American Symphony.  I have been playing ever since!

When did you move to Leonia?   How does your art reflect your life in Leonia?
I moved to Leonia in 1973 to give my son an easier way to live than the life we led in Upper Manhattan.  In Leonia, I have a beautiful backyard which I see through my studio window. I have painted many, many pictures of various corners of it.  It inspires me endlessly.

What is the most challenging part of being an artist?
The most challenging part, frankly, is the marketing. I enjoy making the paintings a lot more than trying to sell them.

What is the most rewarding experience you had as an artist?
I was accepted into a gallery in Manhattan (Chelsea), which I never expected to happen. The Ceres Gallery, 547 W 27th Street, is the first gallery to focus on paintings by women. Being accepted by my peers has encouraged me to widen my endeavors, explore more and test my boundaries.

What is your favorite medium, and why?  What is your favorite music to play on the oboe?
My favorite medium is water soluble oil paint on canvas, because the paint is easy to handle and to clean up and the colors are brilliant. My favorite music is, of course, Bach. I love all the classical composers and many contemporary ones as well.

Who influenced your art the most?
I’ve been influenced by every artist I’ve ever encountered, most especially Sam Feinstein. I studied with Sam Feinstein from 1986 until his death in 2003. My first love was Renoir, but that was a long time ago. Then I fell in love with Cezanne, Bonnard, Mary Cassatt, Childe Hassam, Monet, basically all the impressionists. My favorite  more contemporary artists are Kandinsky, Klimt, Joan Mitchell, Audrey Flack, Albert Ryder, Helen Frankenthaler, too many to list!

What are you working on currently?
I’m currently working on abstract interpretations of the flowers and foliage I see every day.

What inspires you, or where do you find inspiration?
My inspiration is the nature all around me, and the music itself is the inspiration for the way I play.

If you had to choose between playing your favorite music on the oboe or starting a painting on a blank canvas, which would you choose and why?
Luckily I don’t have to choose! It’s kind of an impossible question!!

photography by Matt Dine