Marjorie Nodelman

Seven large tondi (8 ft. diameter) and their flanking elements of derived shape represent the present state of an open-ended series. It embodies the responses of an imagination recently displaced from New Eng­land to the omni-present military-industrial culture as it manifests in Southern California, most specifically San Diego. Themes include the three services (the Air Force represented by the historical "Enola Gay" mission), the arms trade at its local, gun-runner level (Merchant of Death"), and at international corporate scale ("Aerospace Convention - Farnborough"), an episode from American involvement in third-world political struggle ("Counterinsurgency"), and high level deliberations at the Pentagon ("Whiz Kids"). Collectively they form a non-linear, simultaneous narrative ensemble.

The circular format is intended to dissolve the surface plane generated by the traditional rectangle and thus to liberate the depth axis, unifying the pictorial space with that of the viewer. At the same time, by liberating him from gravitational constraints, it is intended to facilitate his visionary participation in the painted events. In compensation, the support itself is thickened to sculptural depth, so as to contain the pressures of the pictorial volumes. The flanking panels extend and complement the themes of the central tondi from alternative angles and distances of view. They amp­lify the spatial effect at both narrative and formal levels, and refer the viewer beyond the single composition to the environing ensemble.



Marjorie Nodelman

Street and traffic signs, octagons, triangles, traffic lights-their function of warning and their aesthetic visual punctuation of the roadside, have always fascinated me. I would like this group of pictures to impact and slide away, to give feelings of acceleration and movement. I feel these images have a kind of compulsive tunnel vision, bearing down on themselves and the viewer in a way i find oppressive but compelling. I have tried to stay away from sequential narrative, but they all share a "twilight midnight melancholia". Their surfaces glisten with black enamel and pop impressionist codes of dots, lozenges, and spirals, sometimes drifting too far into decoration, dissolving and reconstructing their subject matter.


Marjorie Nodelman

These upholstered vinyl reliefs and sculpted objects are part of an experiment to overcome the conventional limitations of "visual" art and to open up a multi-sensorial language in which optical and tactile properties mutually reflect, interpret, and dialogue with one another. This language is intended to be equally accessible and meaningful in either mode, and to help break down the barriers of aesthetic experience which separate the worlds of blind and sighted people. The conventional distinctions of medium and the artistic properties they enforce don't at all correspond to the category-eluding richness of our perceptual experience or to the emotions which it evokes.  


The starting-point for this experiment was a previous series of paintings and upholstered reliefs operating across the boundaries of the usual categories of painting, sculpture, and daily-life object. This series undertook to re-analyze the cubo-futurist roots of contemporary modernism while undercutting the high-art associations of the design conventions by industrial materials and an opening to the world of everyday objects. In the new works, i have tried to develop a grammar of tactile differentiation-- of relief, depth and configuration, of variable densities and resistances, as well as of surface-textual qualities-- which would make these pieces fully intelligible to both tactile and visual "readings," a double text accessible equally to the sighted and non-sighted alike.           



Marjorie Nodelman

Second and Quince is a median strip, very open and windy, with traffic flowing at a fast speed. Six tall graceful palm trees line this strip on one side, and they are the first image a motorist sees driving into Escondido. Traffic flows in one direction, forking on either side of this thin triangular strip. For the motorist, the apex of this triangle is the "gateway" or point of demarcation into Escondido.

Given these conditions, kinetic sculpture seems most visible and effective at this site. A series of windmills would be perfect for the combination of high wind velocity, visibility at fairly high speed, wide open spaces, and the historical tradition of Escondido as an agricultural community.  In a sense they will provide a visual 3-D doppler effect.

The shape of the three windmills is designed to evoke and pay homage to the six beautiful palms already lining the strip, and to capture and mimic the movement of swirling traffic in the rotation of the curved blades.

The image of windmills strongly suggests themes of the frontier and wide open spaces. In this region of the country the windmill is both a historical symbol and an emblem of an alternative energy source and of a new relationship to the environment.

Windmills evoke ideas of unlimited power and possibility, and they are at the same time both contemporary and nostalgic.




Sheldon Nodelman, November, 2015

The origin of this bravura composition can be traced to a morning in the late seventies when Marjorie sat in at a UCSD graduate seminar being conducted by her then husband Sheldon Nodelman.  He was discussing Marcel Duchamp's visionary text of 1912, The Jura-Paris Road--a hallucinatory prose-poem recounting the artist's experience of a night-time automobile voyage returning to Paris from the Jura Mountains. Duchamp describes the speeding car with its headlight beams projecting forward through the darkness and seeming to devour the road in front of them in mythological terms, as a "Machine Mother" with her "Headlight-Child" (in French, Enfant-Phare.)  The word Phare in French means not only headlight, but also (and originally) beacon, as in the beam emitted by a lighthouse--deriving from the famous Pharos lighthouse of ancient Alexandria.  Metaphorically it could also refer to the great creative minds who generate cultural illumination for the remainder of humankind, as in Baudelaire's well-known poem Les Phares--an allusion Duchamp surely intended. Listening to this visionary recital, Marjorie grew increasingly excited and abruptly fled the seminar room for her studio where she began work at once on the first of a series of paintings giving form to her image of the Headlight-Child.

The work exhibited here, executed several years later, enriches the imagery of the original, incorporating a further element drawn from her own very personal iconographic repertory. The disconcerting figure perched upon the automobile hood, with its glaring headlight eyes, is derived from one of the series of fetish-objects that played a disproportionate role in Marjorie’s imaginative life and figured importantly in her art.  This was a baby-doll figure, clad in a disreputable pink and bonneted jump suit, that had once played a long-forgotten role in her own and her sister's childhoods, and had had been rescued from abandonment in an attic corner by John Herschel in the course of a visit to the family home in Wallingford, PA.  Henceforward known as Quaker Baby in tribute to the Quaker milieu of her origins, this child's-toy-turned -idol quickly morphed into a fantasy persona of extraordinary verve and intensity, heroine of all sorts of adventures and perpetrator of a vast repertory of perversities and malicious pranks.  Perhaps her supreme moment was as the centerpiece of John's audio play Hollywood Jesuit, a comic masterpiece.  In this painting Quaker, envisioned as an almost demonic incarnation of the Duchampian Headlight-Child conception, condenses comedy and terror in a near-hysterical apotheosis--a choice example of the artist's hyper-energetic and endlessly inventive iconographic imagination.