‘Marilyn Andrews: Works in Clay’ reflects on life’s work of late Plainfield sculptor 

  • Untitled, ceramic sculpture, 1983 by Marilyn Andrews and Andrew VanAssche. This piece will be auctioned to benefit Out Now, a Springfield based youth group empowering LGBTQ youth for the last 21 years. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • ”Chasing Myself,” sculture by Marilyn Andrews, 2004 STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • ”Crossing,” teapot by  Marilyn Andrews, hand-built stoneware, 2013. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • “Works in Clay” by Marilyn Andrews at the Salmon Falls Gallery in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • “Blindfold,” sculpture by Marilyn Andrews, 2017. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

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    'Works in Clay" by Marilyn Andrews at Salmon Falls Gallery in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Salt and pepper shakers, Marilyn Andrews, hand-built stoneware.   STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/8/2021 2:56:54 PM

After being canceled amid the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, the Salmon Falls Gallery in Shelburne Falls is revisiting a memorial exhibit — “Marilyn Andrews: Works in Clay” — with varied works displaying the creative life of the local artist who died in January 2019.

Andrews was a Plainfield native and sculptor who shared a modestly sized studio in the home she built, literally and figuratively, with her husband Andrew Van Assche, who is also a clay artist. The husband and wife pair led a creative life, vibrant with family, art, good home-grown food, deep reflection and strong ideals.

Gallery Director Donna Gates said this retrospective exhibit was originally staged in March 2020, but then came COVID-19 and the gallery had to close its doors on the exhibit of 75 sculptures, wall works, articles and statements that charted her creative life chronologically. While this new exhibit features closer to 40 works, Gates said it showcases Andrews’ “strong sense of emotional truth, social justice and just plain creative potency.”

“She was an artist who absolutely had something to say,” Gates said. “Her fans tend to become collectors. If you love Marilyn’s work, you need to take it home and let it live with you.”

Andrews did not like to tell people the meaning of her art, reads a press release from the gallery. She instead wanted the work to speak for itself and the viewer to form their own relationship with it. Much of Andrews work is based in sculpting, and many of her human-like figures will be on display as part of “Works in Clay.”

“When I strip away clothing and hair, with their signals about gender and class, I have a powerful basic symbol to work with,” reads Andrews’ own writing about her craft. “When I depict figures as I see them around me, I get the same symbolic power with the weight of culture added. When I create an imagined figure, I have a symbol of the self removed to a perspective that moment-to-moment living can’t access.

“It’s the power of the symbol that fuels my play with it,” she continued in her writing. “Such a rich resource — the smallest gesture of the body or face is full of meaning for us. This is the material I use to make a new connection between myself (physically, emotionally and intellectually) and the physical and social world around me. This is my understanding of art-making and the capability it offers us for understanding our world and communicating with each other.”

“Marilyn Andrews: Works in Clay” can be seen now through Oct. 31 at the Salmon Falls Gallery at 1 Ashfield Road in Shelburne Falls. The brick-and-mortar gallery is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A reception for this exhibit is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 2, from 2 to 4 p.m. with music by Forest Avenue. The quartet is made up of Dan Frank (mandolin and hurdy gurdy), Desiree Lowit (fiddle), Eveline MacDougall (fiddle, viola and accordion), and Andrew Van Assche (guitar). They bring their own interpretations to fiddle tunes from the British Isles, Scandinavia and France.

Silent auction to benefit Out Now youth group

In tandem with the exhibit, one sculpture that Andrews and her husband created together will be on silent auction through Oct. 31. The profits from this sale will benefit Out Now, a youth-run LGBTQ organization founded 21 years ago.

According to a press release, this sculpture was created in 1983, “when the couple wished to explore the gender roles within their own marriage, and then to discard them.” One clue to this process is shown by a schematic image in a corner of the piece: a male figure and a female figure with a large X drawn through them both.

Van Assche said he marveled at how current the subject matter is to our society today, where any kind of categorization in terms of gender is being thoroughly questioned. He shared that the two took on the tasks they were best suited for, not what culture deemed appropriate, and during the project of building their home, Andrews took on wiring the house herself, an activity certainly contrary to the gender “norms” of the 1980s.

He wished to let this particular sculpture carry on the work of reforming gender roles that he and Andrews explored during their marriage of more than 40 years by giving the proceeds of its sale to an organization involved in that work. Out Now provides a safe space for queer youth and allies to learn about themselves, develop leadership skills and explore the history of the LGBTQ movement.

For more information, go to SalmonFallsGallery.com or call 413-625-9833.


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