Marilee Shapiro

Neither twenty-three years of growing up nor a philosophy degree from the University of Chicago prepared me for what awaited me in a school basement in 1936. In that basement was a class in sculpture.

In that basement, sculpture found me and I found it.

Fortune continued to be kind to me in allowing me to study for two years under the world-renowned sculptor Alexander Archipenko. He taught me basic techniques for handling clay, from hollowing for firing to the importance of surfaces.

I was awakening to the world of art.

After my move to Washington DC in 1943 I continued to sculpt. Annual juried shows at the Corcoran, the Smithsonian, and the Baltimore Museums, classes at the newly formed art department at American University, and rich associations with other artists all helped me to explore painting, drawing, and etching. But I always returned to sculpture.

The exciting creative ferment then enriching the art world inspired me to work and experiment.

At the Watkins Gallery of American University in 1947 I had my first one-person show.

After that, I discovered the ancient lost-wax process for casting molten bronze in a foundry. This lost wax way of making sculpture was a dramatically new medium. My vocabulary of shapes and textures enlarged.

Over the decades, finding and combining new media have kept the studio alive for me.

At age 88 I realized that I needed a less physically demanding medium. The solution was a course at the Corcoran Gallery School of Art called Introduction to Digital Art. Using Photoshop, I scan parts of my drawings or etchings into the computer, manipulate them, move elements, change the color, and thereby produce a new piece of art.

To begin with some inert material, to struggle with it, to transform it until it can speak for itself is the reward of the creative process.