Marsha Balian and
Patricia Sonnino

Marsha Balian - Artist Statement


Making art can be therapy, hard work, a distraction and an escape. The radical changes in how we must now live our lives since the onset of the Corona Virus pandemic have been unprecedented and without a doubt those changes have affected how we make art. For many artists, imagery of face masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and other items are being featured in their work. I find the limitations around human interaction that we must now accept just as difficult as the fact that we must protect ourselves by making use of face masks and other items. But I don’t feel inclined to memorialize or reference those items in my work.

Nevertheless, the impact of so many lives lost, the fear that surrounds going out into the world and the many restrictions that have now become the norm all impact us in ways that aren’t necessarily conscious or under our control. Without a direct plan, I found myself playing with some of the underlying themes without making a direct reference to the specifics of life now. Which is how this series “Pseudoscience” came to be.

Some of the impetus for this work came from witnessing the tendency (spurred in part by that man in the White House) towards hanging hats on implausible cures or far-fetched theories.  Fear is such a profound and deeply uncomfortable experience that since history was first recorded, we humans seek relief through magical thinking and fantastical therapies.  

This body of work makes use of humorous imagery from some of the multitude of approaches used over time to either predict the future or control it.  Some of the images and items used in this work include repurposed Tarot Cards, and references to various forms of magic.

Two items found their way into some of this work: one a card game called “Flinch” which was first marketed in 1901 and features a custom deck with 150 cards. Each card has only a very elegant number but no suits such as clubs, hearts or spades and to my eye evokes something mysterious.

The second was a book on Phrenology from the 19th century that I’ve had for several years. Phrenology was the pseudoscientific study of the skull which was supposed to reveal important aspects of character and personality. It grew out of a desire to understand the mind and in some respects was the precursor to the field of psychology.  But it also functioned to support racist and bigoted notions separating people into sub-human categories.

Making art can certainly be a distraction which I find very helpful. It can also be a form of play. For me, the beauty of doing mixed media work allows the artist the liberty of playing with many disparate materials. Despite the fact that these are heavy and difficult times, if there is a way to convey even a little bit of humor, it confirms the therapeutic benefit of art.