Aural Compositions: Art by Marilyn Nelson

A painting based on a contemporary pop songWaiting on the World to Change, oil on canvas

Marilyn Nelson’s practice is heavily informed by music, where the artist turns aural compositions into deeply layered abstract paintings. Marilyn’s works often feature vibrant and dark strokes of numerous colors.


A dark abstract painting incorporating textOn Every Corner, oil on canvas

I rather enjoy the way that Marilyn tends to compose her images. On each canvas, there seems to be a definite center point where all the brush marks and strokes of color converge, reaching peak saturation. The edges of her works, by contrast, seem to fade into blackness, lending additional volume to each composition, something like the rise and fall of musical crescendos.


The front page of Marilyn Nelson's art


Each work is titled after the song that inspired it. Marilyn’s style of abstraction is highly variable depending on what the music inspires. Sometimes she uses blocky, almost geometric brush strokes in bright primary colors, while at other times the paintings are more subdued, with delicate, blended marks in a uniform color scheme. Marilyn is also skilled in figurative painting, as we noted in our last feature of her musical paintings. Her landscapes use an interesting style of small, layered brush strokes to create impressionist scenes.


A painting of a farm in SaskatechewanEarly Days of Farming in Saskatchewan, acrylic on canvas

Written by: Dallas Jeffs
Explore more artworks

Become a featured artist

You can't be featured if you don't submit!
40,000 people are waiting to discover your artwork today.