Got an old t-shirt lying around? Before you head to Goodwill, consider donating it to artist Joseph Maruska—he’ll happily take it. The abstract painter and California native doesn’t require fancy brushes or palette knives to create his larger-than-life pieces; his signature cosmic compositions are achieved with the aid of that neglected concert tee that’s been hiding in the back of your closet for years.
With over 30 years of experience, Maruska has his methods down pat. As his abstract dreamscapes spill over into a sea of psychological interpretations, his unintentional “Rorschach tests” breed various meanings and imagery: animals or trees, happiness or a distant memory.
Tranquility, 44 x 86, oil on panel
Maruska remarks, “I get all kinds of reactions to my paintings. People see all kinds of imagery, but I don’t intend for there to be anything representational there. I suppose my paintings become almost a mirror to peoples’ souls, and they pull up things from their lives. It’s really curious but makes me feel good.”
Maruska briefly studied marine biology at the University of Southern California before switching his major to art, signaling his foray into the world of creativity and freedom he happily has called home ever since. A great illustrator from a young age, he nonchalantly mentions that he could have painted the Mona Lisa exactly at one point but did not find that very rewarding. “Interpreting something else wasn’t my deal. I really wanted to create, and I felt more involved by going abstract, like I was building something rather than just painting.”
Aqueous, 36 x 72, oil on panel
In his studio, Maruska begins his endeavors by laying down texture with modeling paste. After it dries, he begins incorporating his colors, which span from turquoise blue and crimson red to dun colors. He enjoys big canvases because they give him broad latitude; his hands, equipped with that old concert tee, explore the full range of his blank slate like those of a composer conducting a symphony. He lays his canvas flat, as opposed to vertically on an easel so that the paint doesn’t drip or run. He applies his selected colors serially to interpret the paste texture and, when all is said and done, around four gallons of turpentine have been put to fantastic use.
Sugar Blue, 54 x 54, oil on panel
Maruska knows abstract art isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Aiding in the viewers’ instinctual quest to find meaning, he gives his paintings titles that offer a starting point in deciphering his enigmatic images. He hopes that viewers not only see his paintings, but that they “hear” them as well, thereby allowing a deeper appreciation for the musicality of his inventions.
“I want viewers to use their eyes the way they use their ears to listen to music. You’re really not seeing anything, but the notes and a nice rhythm are organized in such a way that it has a melody. Just as music evokes emotion, so I hope the viewer gets that response from my work.”
Joseph Maruska’s work is currently on show at The Marshall Gallery.