Painting as Dance

An article by Annie O'neill
Originally seen in the Gardiner Gazette, Summer 2014 Issue

Sleuthing around Gardiner in Sherlock Holmes mode, I pondered the elegant lady with paint-encrusted shoes. That was my first encounter with lo- cal artist Marilyn Perry, who started painting at sixty-two!

Her first hands-on steps towards art were in class with Gardiner artist Pattie Eakin. Marilyn was still a commuter from Manhattan—an accomplished art historian with a University of Lon- don PhD in 16th Century Italian Renaissance art.

This expertise transitioned to a full-time job in cultural philanthropy as president of the Kress Foundation and chairman of the World Monuments Fund. She has traveled worldwide, lived in Venice and had a hand in the preservation of many European projects—Vivaldi’s church in Venice; Aphrodisias in Turkey; and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, are examples.

After a lifetime of looking and thinking about art, it never occurred to her that a creative-artistic bent was locked up inside. When it hit, there was no turning back! Marilyn discovered that at heart she was “self-teaching,” and the joy of art is about discovering the hidden narratives spontaneously revealed as she “plays” with paint on canvas.

She pours, scrapes, and pushes paint around with palette knives, fingers and self-created tools. Painting for her is “a dance that flows and is all about movement.” To achieve her seascapes, water vistas, clouds and fiery semi-abstract landscapes she uses intense and vibrant acrylic inks, fluid acrylics and encaustic waxes.

The floor in her studio feels like a seascape, and there is an overwhelming sense of abundance and joy in the air and on the walls. There is a feeling of “full-out adventure” in her approach to the visual world. She is not methodical or patient, but continually engrossed in self discovery. Marilyn says “paint flows the way water does and con- stantly changes.”

In 2007, after a serious bout with Lyme disease, she created her Black Hawk Trail studio and launched a new and intense trajectory. Her first exhibits were in New York City, where she was written about by the Wall St. Journal and was selected to show a piece at the National Academy of design. Locally she has shown at the Ulster Savings Bank, is part of the Gardiner Open Studio Tour, and is scheduled for a Gardiner Library show. This summer a painting of hers will be exhibited at the Millbrook Vineyard and Winery in competition for a label on an award-winning wine.

You can view her paintings at and visit her studio in October on the next Gardiner Open Studio Tour (GOSTart. com).

Follow her in her paint-encrusted shoes!