Art Spotlight – Marilee Hall
Tim Burton’s masterpiece “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” childhood classic “Where the Wild Things Are,” and the candy-fueled journey of “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” are iconic examples of how whimsy has entered our homes and imaginations.
The above are deservedly some of the most celebrated expressions of the whimsical, but did you know we have our own master of whimsy in Cookeville artist Marilee Hall?
Marilee began her nearly 40-year career in ceramics by creating utilitarian items like bowls and casserole dishes, but as her skills quickly improved, so did her desire for creative expression.
From there, Marilee began developing an instantly recognizable style.
Marilee’s work is a blend of coiling, slab rolling, and handbuilding. She uses primarily white earthenware clay, employs under-glazes, glazes and specialty glazes, and gives definition and individuality to her pieces through the combination of colors and textures.
This distinctive technique allows Marilee to invent human, animal, and human-animal hybrid characters that are vibrant, fun, uplifting, and all seem part of a story.
Her work, from tiled-wall construction to sculptures, is narrative driven; each piece meant to be enveloping, enchanting, and mesmerizing.
This can be seen most clearly in the eyes of Marilee’s characters.
Exaggerated in the most beautiful way, “the portals to the soul” of her characters really do offer a window into who they are, and who their creator is.
To know Marilee, you need but read this single quote describing what she hopes her art and life convey, “Be compassionate. Express yourself. Be open together; let’s drop judgment. Let’s hug, let’s laugh, let’s read poems. Let’s just be together.”
Like a poem, her pieces are meant to be experienced, dealt with, and reimagined by the viewer.
They have a signature look and feel, but like any great work of creativity remain open to interpretation.
From folk tales to compassionate commentary on our collective psyche, Marilee’s work is at its core human.
It uses an ancient medium, whimsy, and skill to connect each of us with our own story, the journeys of those around us, and most of all, the whimsy of being alive.
– written by Andrew Buckner, photos by Olivia Merritt