In order to pursue her own private body of work, after 17 years of solo exhibits in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, Marlaina no longer participates in galleries or accepts commissions. Her preferred mediums are traditional oil on canvas (walnut-based technique free of turpentine and other harsh thinners) and pure-pigment soft pastels and mixed media on paper.
SageWoman Magazine artist profile: Marlaina Donato
Editor’s note April 2013: There are so many wonderful Goddess-loving women artists that, because of the restrictions of the newsstand, I can’t easily feature in SageWoman’s print editions. This essay is part of a series intended to bring talented female artists to the attention of our readers.
As a child, to my delight, I had more art supplies than toys and a small drafting table where I would color away the hours on any given day. Blessed with parents who nourished the arts and nature-based spirituality, I guess it was inevitable for me to meld the two together when the Goddess transformed my life when I turned twenty. Never again would I be content with rendering everyday faces or flowers- women portrayed in all of our elemental brilliance became a passion that continues today as I approach my mid 40s.
For me, the process of calling forth a Goddess painting begins with a simple intention that feels like ritual in its purest and most private form: I burn sage and piñon and then rest the palm of my hand on a blank canvas and ask the spirit of the future painting what it wants to be. Despite clear detail of my own vision of the work, there is always a point where I have to step out of the way and allow the Muse to take complete control. I rarely choose an actual woman to paint and always begin with the eyes and then sketch the surrounding features. For me as a mystic and an artist, I draw upon the ancient belief that a woman’s hair holds the key to the spirit realm and Goddess power, the Artemisian and Magdalenian wilderness within each of us. The hair of my Goddesses pulsates outward, through galaxies, forests, forming a nimbus of Shakti power.
In many of my paintings, I allow for intentional and unintentional dripping; some people have asked me the meaning of this effect, and my answer is always the same: tears of the soul, tears of joy and pain so deep they never see daylight. Women’s tears through the ages, baptizing, cleansing, blessing.
Sometimes I embed organic materials right into my acrylic paint- leaves, twigs, ferns, sycamore bark. Nothing feels more sacred than preserving Her energy in my creative offering. I have done this at the height of midsummer and have felt the season’s life force dissolve right into the colors.
As an artist, I am honored to create, to choose a path that chose me very early in life. I see it as nothing less than a sacred office and never take a brush stroke for granted yet have studied Nature long enough to know that sometimes we have to de-construct, transform, and even destroy our own work in order to birth the new and glorious.