Marsha Balian

13.5″x13.5″; mixed media; 2019

Marsha Balian
Oakland, California, USA


There are three elements that compel the production of art for me. The first is a sense of mystery. I never know what will appear as I am working on a piece of art. I begin the process with shadowy notions, but in many respects it is the force of curiosity that holds my attention captive. It is like reading a “whodunit” without the structure of a crime.

Which isn’t to say that the work completes itself or arrives with ghostly aid. But there is still a riddle to be solved, an equation to be resolved that I find more compelling or absorbing than any other activity in life.

I have no formal training or instruction in art. So the second element is invention. I test an idea, use whatever materials may be at hand, incorporate found objects, papers, detritus. The risks of failure are perhaps no different than any other pursuit, even with the benefit of instruction. But stubbornness trumps failure and I try until something works, at least to my own satisfaction.

The third influence for me is the power of story, both my own and that of others. I worked for many years as a health care provider. In that role, I had the privilege of absorbing stories, strength and struggle. All that I took in was mediated by love and humour, which are often the only weapons in the losing battles we all must face. That humor has fed me and infuses my artwork where I have the lucky opportunity to celebrate and laugh.


Self-taught artist Marsha Balian has lived most of her adult life in the Bay Area. She admits great difficulty following directions and would rather figure things out on her own, or invent her own techniques. Her work often incorporates found objects, including what might be available on the floor of her studio. Since invention doesn’t require adherence to any rules, her art avoids what might be literal and attempts to engage the imagination of the viewer. Humour is never far behind.

Her artwork has been shown throughout the Bay Area and in many parts of the country. It has also been seen in The Permanente Journal, American Art Collector, Studio Visit, Gathering Clouds and Scrubs Magazine. Her work was recently featured on the cover of West Marin Review. Ms Balian is represented by the GearBox Gallery in Oakland, California.


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Tea and Me Under a Tree
9.5″x12″; mixed media; 2019
Stones Throw
13.5″x13.5″; mixed media; 2019
11.5″x6″; mixed media; 2018
10″x15″; mixed media; 2018