Finely Tuned: Paintings by Marlene Siff

Artwork by Marlene Siff

Sheffer Gallery

March 15 through June 10

Artists’ reception and talk: Sunday, May 5, 2-4 pm. Reception: 2-3 pm in the Sheffer Gallery; Talk with Miggs Burroughs: 3-4 pm in the Forum

Timed to coincide with VersoFest, each of the five large dimensional works in Finely Tuned, paintings by Marlene Siff— Fanfare, Crescendo, Legato, Elegy, and Fugue — is named for, and linked to, a specific expression found in music. Visitors to the gallery will be able to scan a QR code next to each piece and listen to the musical selections that the artist used as inspiration.

“As a child, I studied classical music for over 10 years and have always listened to music while studying at school and working in my studio,” said Marlene. “My love of music inspired a desire to develop a new interpretation of music in art. These ideas were influenced by the rhythm, structure, and sounds of the musical compositions and songs I chose for each one of the interactive, multi-dimensional paintings.

“Working on 7 Finely Tuned + 1 became a creative, emotional, and spiritual adventure! My hope is to inspire strength, power, courage, and happiness at this particular time of great stress in our country.”


Born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, Siff describes herself as being born with a paintbrush in hand. She attended the High School of Music and Art in New York City and earned a BA in Fine Arts from Hunter College, where she studied with Richard Lippold, William Baziotes, Raymond Parker, and William Rubin.

After graduation she began her professional career as a teacher, and then went on to create bed linen and kitchen collections for J.P. Stevens. After finding commercial success, she also designed kitchen and dining room collections for JCPenney.

Since devoting herself full time to her art, Marlene’s work has been juried into 153 competitions throughout the United States and has won 45 awards. Her work has been exhibited in museums, galleries, and universities throughout the U.S. and abroad, including the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, the Katonah Museum of Art, the New Britain Museum of American Art, the Mattatuck Museum, the Attleboro Arts Museum, Columbia/Barnard University, the University of Texas, the Walsh Art Gallery at Fairfield University, Eastern Kentucky University, and The Capitol building in Washington D.C.

Marlene’s work is also in the permanent collections of the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, the Housatonic Museum of Art in Bridgeport, B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum in Washington D.C., the Skirball Museum in Cincinnati, and in the Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center at Cornell University, as well as in many private collections. She works in her home-based studio in Westport.

“Every day, we are confronted with the fragmentation of our non-linear lives, trying as in a puzzle to make the pieces fit together and make sense of it all,” Marlene said. “In a world that can feel full of complexity and chaos, I am passionate about creating art that communicates a sense of harmony, balance, order, and spirituality.

“My paintings, works on paper, and sculpture depict imagery of personal and global events and psychological issues. They are a reflection of the world we live in, expressed through geometric shapes, color, light, space, texture, edges, and movement, each interplaying with one another and engaging the viewer to participate. The love I have for my family, gardens, ballet, theatre, and music have also always found their way into my work.

“Every painting begins with a conceptual vision, and ultimately seeks to convey a narrative. The multi-dimensionality and layered nature of my work aim to penetrate the illusions of reality, reaching the mystery and essence of the soul.”

Exhibit support provided by The Drew Friedman Community Arts Center.


List of Works

Fanfare: Fanfare is from the series 7 Finely Tuned. The form reflects its title, describing a short musical flourish that is typically played by trumpets, French horns, or other brass instruments, often accompanied by percussion. Its range of color and fan-like form mimic the instruments associated with the term as well as the short burst of sound the term implies.

The selections are: “Olympic Fanfare and Theme,” the Boston Pops Orchestra, conductor: John Williams; “Fanfare for the Common Man,” Aaron Copland, the Philadelphia Orchestra; conductor: Eugene Ormandy; “Fanfare: Colonel-in-Chief,” the Regimental Band of the Royal Hussars. Siff encourages you to listen to this complementary Spotify playlist while viewing the exhibit.

Crescendo: Crescendo is from the series 7 Finely Tuned. The form, comprised of a series of curvilinear segments that are alternately concave and convex, increasing in size and color intensity as the work rises, reflecting its title, used to describe the highest point reached in a gradually rising intensity. Its color, pink, as well as the reflective strips shooting out from the work also connect to the explosion created by the “Me-Too” movement that was unfolding as the work was underway. The form and color can be read as a mirror for the way women who have been victimized have found their collective voice.

The selections are: “This is My Life,” Shirley Bassey; “Boléro”/Ravel Lorin Maazel: Orechestre National de France; “Maybe This Time,” Liza Minelli/Cabaret original soundtrack. Siff encourages you to listen to this complementary Spotify playlist while viewing the exhibit.

Legato: Legato is from the series 7 Finely Tuned. The painting’s title comes from the Italian word 'legare,’ which means to tie or bind. In other words, to connect or join together. In a musical sense, it signifies music that is played or sung without any space or interruption between the notes. The undulating form suggests this continuity as do the intersecting waves of black and white that blend to become silver, brighter together than apart. Together these elements create a blended, unceasing unity.

The selections are: “Yesterday,” the Beatles; “Canon In D Major,” Palchelbel, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, conductor: Leonard Slatkin; “The Rose,” Bette Midler. Siff encourages you to listen to this complementary Spotify playlist while viewing the exhibit.

Elegy: Elegy is from the series 7 Finely Tuned. Elegy: A setting of a poem, or an instrumental piece, lamenting the loss of someone deceased. The word is from the Greek elegos, a poem written in distichs of alternate dactylic hexameters and pentameters and sung to the flute. Classical elegies embraced a wide variety of subject matter, but prominent among them were laments and commemorative songs. The painting is comprised of shifting discs, their forms suggesting no beginning or no end, like the life cycle. Viewed in the context of the pandemic, the work is seen as a lament for all those who have been lost.

The selections are: “Both Sides Now” Joni Mitchell; “Fly” Céline Dion; “Flower Duet” (from Lakme) Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Siff encourages you to listen to this complementary Spotify playlist while viewing the exhibit.

Fugue: Fugue is from the series 7 Finely Tuned. In music, a fugue is a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject (a musical theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation (repetition at different pitches) and which recurs frequently in the course of the composition. In the painting this is represented by the layering of “musical lines” that rise and fall in opposition.

The selections are: “Little Fugue in G-minor BWV578,” Johann Sebastian Bach Leopold Stokowski/Symphonica Orchestra; “Cool, Fugue,” West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein New York Philharmonic Orchestra; “Shape of You Fugue,”Ed Sheeran, Chris Rupp/vocalist. Siff encourages you to listen to this complementary Spotify playlist while viewing the exhibit.

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