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Music and Social Justice: An Art Portfolio by Marilyn Nelson

A painting made up of intersecting vertical linesEast to the West, oil on canvas

Marilyn Nelson’s artistic practice is inspired by music and social justice, both significant interests for the artist herself. The artist’s paintings tend to be abstract, though in recent works, Marilyn has experimented with the addition of text.

A painting incorporating elements of abstraction and textWhere is the love?, oil on canvas


I her ongoing series Subliminal Reflections, Marilyn uses a musical lens to explore concepts of not only abstract artistic vision and creation, but subjects like feminism, equality, and socio-political reforms that are close to her own heart. The resulting works sometimes take a form that references cityscapes and architecture, while at other times Marilyn’s sweeping, flowing brush work creates an airy, ethereal, and totally abstract look and feel.

A screen capture of Marilyn Nelson's art portfolio


I enjoy the deep, dark background colours that Marilyn uses in her works. Purple seems to be recurring motif, as do saturated tones of red and blue, interspersed with planes of dark grey or black. The use of these heavy tones lends a weight and a sense of drama to the artworks.

A detail of a large geometric abstract paintingWhere is the Love? (Detail), oil on canvas

About the author

Dallas Jeffs Art Writer

Dallas Jeffs is the Editor of Artist Run Website's blog. They hold a degree in Critical and Cultural Practices from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, as well as a certificate in Technical Writing from BCIT. Dallas has a passion for speaking and writing about art, and sharing that interest with others. In their studio practice they are an illustrator and budding tattoo artist, but they consider themselves a writer foremost. If you like art, books and culture with a science fiction twist, check out Dallas' personal blog, HappySpaceNoises or their art on Instagram.

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