An Artist’s Manifesto

A conversation with myself
Photo courtesy of Phil Sears

Tallahasseean Marina Brown — dancer, cellist, author, visual artist —  captured a moment of despair in her drawing titled Shamed.

Who knows how these daemons begin? Or have they always been there, sleeping in the crib beside the baby, whispering into its little ear, or guiding a chubby hand with a thick stub of chalk? For most painters, poets, players of music and dancers of steps, the world is not, and never has been, a quiet place. Not in our heads, where our senses reside, and, consequently, not in our bodies, which are conduits and fountains for the transmogrifications that have, oh-so-mysteriously, occurred — those translations and interpretations and syntheses that happen — sometimes, it seems, without our active participation.

D.H. Lawrence knew them, those little artistic daemons that woke him at night with a new idea. And Monet, as he watched colors collide and disengage, when purple filled the sky and it made sense. Musicians who see arabesques dancing like cerulean ribbons tied to the tip of a bow also know what it means to live in a world where an object is more than it seems, and a piece of paper, a concrete block and a leaf drying alone, on a driveway, are merely analogies for beauty in other forms.

And so it is with me.

Art, or experiencing the world with what seems to be a heightened awareness of form and sound and connections and underlying meanings, was always there. From my earliest days, the color of skin, the way light would fall against a clapboard, a shadow’s distortion at sunset or the sound of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, the only classical record my tradesman’s family had to play, were emotionally distracting and needed to be reproduced as a play, a story, a painting or a dance.

I became a dancer, first — a soloist with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, in the U.S. and Europe — and later, a nurse, in surgery, psychiatry and hospice. I played the cello with the Tampa Bay Symphony on an instrument whose caramel voice sings as it rests against my heart. And all the while, the stories spilled out in poems, paintings and, later, in books where colors danced, just as I could make them on a canvas.

To make a painting? First is the listening — with eyes, yes, but also with ears, or with the heart, perhaps. I saw a beautiful black man pumping gas; his skin was filled with an aqueous flood of blues and oranges, reds and siennas. I saw a dancer bent forward, light outlining her muscles in dazzling chrome. I heard an old man sing about having no home and read of a woman murdered in a church. All of these became paintings to share — color-tinted stories about a world saturated with noisy, visual poems.

And so, if we have dinner, expect the paper tablecloth to be covered with sketches, impressions of diners sitting nearby and the Styrofoam take-home box dotted with profiles or gesticulating hands. If you glance in my purse, please know that the magazine scraps are swatches of color I will remix at home, and that the dry twigs and stones and bodies of bugs that line my shelves are homage to a world that brings joy at any moment on its long trajectory.

But daemons are needy. I and other painters and artists indentured to their care feed them with light. We groom them with words. We serenade them with beautiful sounds and dance for their pleasure. And in return, like a lover who cannot tell the difference between the caress given and the caress received, we have served a greater purpose … the secret one, whispered in our ears so long ago, as babes.

Marina Brown’s newest novel, Lisbeth, won the Silver Medal from the Royal Palm Literary Awards, and was published in May. Her first novel, Land Without Mirrors, won the 2013 Gold Medal from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. Her most recent exhibition of paintings was at the Meek-Eaton Museum at the historic Union Bank in Tallahassee.

Contact Marina on Facebook at Marina Brown, Artist or Marina Brown, Author; or email

Categories: Art