Cora Marshall: Drawing on the past

BY KELLY MIYAR, NNB Student Reporter

ST. PETERSBURG – When Gulfport artist Cora Marshall puts brush to canvas, she is drawing on her African and Native American past.

Marshall, 67, and her husband moved to Gulfport in May 2013 after she retired from the art department at Connecticut State University in New Britain.

“We used to vacation to Florida a lot,” she said. “My husband and I knew we wanted to retire, so when we found something we liked on the water we moved.”

Since arriving, Marshall has shown her work in three St. Petersburg venues.

In April, she and local artist John Harte exhibited their work at the Studio@620 at 620 First Ave. S. after they participated in the venue’s “Members Only Art Show.”

In October, she opened an exhibit titled “Runaway! Going, Going, Gone” at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum at 2240 Ninth Ave. S. The work was inspired by “Wanted” advertisements from the 1700s and early 1800s that sought the return of runaway slaves.

Marshall said she used the descriptions of hair color, clothes, complexion, scars, demeanor and size to create vivid images that embodied realistic people.

In a note explaining the series, Marshall describes her work as a “commemoration of our survival and our ability to thrive under the most adverse beginnings.” She calls on viewers to remember “those who have come before us. Remembering the price they had to pay to survive. Remembering what it means to be free.”

On Nov. 8, a Marshall exhibit titled “INDIGENOUS” opened a month-long showing at Gallerie 909 at 909 22nd St. S. on the importance of remembering those who have it means to be free.

The exhibit showcased work that was inspired by African and Native American cultures. It also included paintings from Marshall’s “Shadow Catcher” medicine woman series.

According to oral accounts of her family history, Marshall said one of her grandmothers was a Native-American healer.

“The first piece in the ‘Shadow Catcher’ series was created when I was really sick,” she said. My grandmother spoke to me of healing in my fevered dream. The painting came to me almost fully formed.”

Marshall said it typically takes her 50 to 60 hours to complete a piece. She paints in acrylics, oils and mixed media.

Marshall said she focuses her work in spirituality. She produces pieces that connect to her past by combining meanings and symbols. “Each painting carries a meaning and the viewer is invited to reflect,” she said.

She has a bachelor’s in fine arts from Howard University, a master’s degree in education through a collaborative program of the Bank Street College of Education and Parsons The New School for Design and a doctorate in art from New York University.

At Connecticut State University, she taught a variety of art studio and education courses and served as department chairwoman from 2006 to 2012. She has exhibited around the country and overseas.

When she isn’t creating art, Marshall teaches an online photo class twice a year at Central Connecticut State.

She also likes to spend time with her husband, Clarence, go to the beach and read.

Kelly Miyar is a student reporter in the Neighborhood News Bureau of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

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