Abstract Watercolors: Unusual Compositions

Abstract Watercolors: Unusual Compositions

Website Review: Marcie Jan Bronstein

By Richard Malinsky, Arts Editor

The opening page of Marcie Jan Bronstein’s website, marciejbronstein.com, grabbed my attention with an atypical composition that quietly dominates the page. I found it atypical in that we rarely see abstract watercolors, especially compositions with hard edges and irregular forms. At first glance these forms have no obvious content and are rendered in a muted palette. It is not what we think of when we hear the word watercolor. Actually, in this context, the painting “Being Here, How It Feels” looks like a book cover, and I want to open it to find out more.

Abstract watercolors: painting with blues, purples, and greens
Marcie Jan Bronstein, Being Here, How It Feels, from the Mourning, Morning Series, 2019. Watercolor on paper, 16” x 20”

While it certainly is not necessary to understand an abstract painting to enjoy it, I nevertheless found myself wondering what makes this quiet painting so monumental? The more I looked, the more I found this painting loaded with content. Each irregular form is gently balanced by touching one another that creates an architectural lattice structure that would collapse if one were removed. Larger, stronger forms frame this gathering like a roof and walls protecting it from outside forces—a community if you will. It might be a church. This is a painting about strength and vulnerability, fragility and interdependence, conflict and harmony.

Bronstein is a painter of relationships. She creates her own visual vocabulary via gestural mark-making, color palette, and forms that create compositions that are deeply personal, intimate, and also beautiful. Her symbolic imagery evolves, as she prefers working in series. The painting “The Force of Friendship” was the culmination of her residency at the noted Millay Colony, NY, and clearly demonstrates her masterful command of the unique watercolor techniques of bleeding, flowing, merging, and layering.

Abstract watercolor painting with greens and blues
Marcie Jan Bronstein, The Force of Friendship, from the Seeking, Finding Series, 2018. Water color on paper, 20” x 18”

For Bronstein, inspiration for a painting might come from a surface, a window, or a park, and usually a mixture of all those things that begin to evoke something deeper. She comments, “Paintings I consider the most successful feel revelatory, like a window into a space in my subconscious.” The recent painting “Pilgrimage” begins a newly developing series Portals, which she describes as both an entry and an exit, but most of all they’re like an invitation into a space of unknown potential.

Abstract watercolor painting with reds, purples, and greens
Marcie Jan Bronstein, Pilgrimage, from the Portals Series, 2019. Watercolor on paper, 16” x 20”

Her compositions are easily traced back as a logical evolution of curvilinear lines and forms from early work as seen in “Leaving Home.” This series started by carving geometric shapes into soft linoleum blocks inked and printed on watercolor paper that she describes as starting points. Rhythmic lines and dancing forms populated within and around the graphic matrix are added afterward.

Abstract watercolor block print painting
Marcie Jan Bronstein, Leaving Home, from the Swimming Series. Block prints and watercolor on paper, 11” x 16”

“Barcelona” was selected from this series for the cover of the New England Review April 2017 cover.

The cover of a magazine, with an abstract watercolor painting in the background
Marcie Jan Bronstein, Barcelona from the Swimming Series, 2015. Block prints and watercolor on paper, 11” x 16”

Oddly, one of the things that makes her work stand-alone is she has little interest in the contemporary art scene and avoids social media. She readily admits her artistic heart is very much in old Europe, with artists of another time: Bonnard, Matisse, Klee, Appel, and Morandi.

She exhibits widely and has traveled the world teaching creative watercolor painting to thousands of passengers on tour ships. Since 1996 she lives and works with her family on the coast on Maine. She states, “What I want to do is to make paintings that only I can make.”

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