Artist and Musician Biographies


This video documents a retrospective of Marisol's work.

Marisol Escobar (Marisol), a Venezuelan, was born in Paris in 1930 and spent much of her childhood there. Her father was in real estate, and the family lived very comfortably, although her mother died when she was eleven years old. Marisol was encouraged by her family to pursue a career as an artist and was given financial backing by her father to begin her career. Marisol's family moved to Los Angeles and at the age of sixteen, she studied at the Jepson School. She then attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris (1949), the Art Students League in New York City (1950), New York City's New School for Social Research (1951-1854), and with Hans Hoffman, the abstract expressionist, although she resisted the abstract expressionist style.

Marisol was a part of the beat generation. She avoided becoming an action painter and chose sculpture as an alternative. Marisol's early work consisted of small clay figures and woodcarvings of animals and human figures, which were influenced by fairy stories, the funny papers, and the pictures of saints that she had to copy at school. She was repelled by the seriousness of some of her fellow beatniks and in rebellion, Marisol looked for something happier in her sculptures, some of which are quite funny.

Late in the 1950s, Marisol dropped the surname Escobar. She felt that just her first name was more distinctive, and rarely uses her last name.

Marisol had developed a new style of sculpture by 1958, when she had an exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York City. She began assembling wooden constructions of people and animals on a large scale. She used combinations of different media, which often seemed incongruous, such as wood with plaster and pencil drawing on wood. The varied use of materials by Picasso and the combines of Rauschenberg inspired her.

At the time, it was difficult for a woman to gain recognition in the art world, which was dominated by men. Many young female artists felt oppressed by this fact, and because of this atmosphere of oppression, Marisol often chose subject matter which related to her female experience, often drawing upon stereotypical subjects associated with women such as the family, children, and women expressing independence from men.

One of her early works from this period was titled "The Kennedy Family" (1962), which was made of wood and other materials. The figures of Jack, Jackie, Caroline, and John-John were represented by simple, wooden, box-like forms, with spheres for the heads. The features, hair and clothing were painted on the wooden shapes. They were part sculpture, part painting, part pencil drawing. This unique combination of drawing, painting and sculpture and the play between two and three dimensions is characteristic of most of Marisol's work.

Two of Marisol's most famous pieces are "The Family" (1962), which depicts a farm family from the dust bowl era, and "The Generals" (1961-1962), consisting of George Washington and Simon Bolivar sitting on a large toy horse made from a barrel. The hands of Washington and Bolivar are plaster casts of Marisol's own hands.

Marisol's own face often appears on her sculptures and has remained a central part of her sculptures. In her sculpture, "The Wedding" (1962-1963), Marisol's face appeared as both the bride's and groom's faces. This was a reflection on her quietness and introverted personality, as well as a feminist statement.

After spending a year in South America and Central America, Marisol's work changed. She still continued to use her face, but her sculptures were of fish, often shark-like predators. In 1973, she began showing these her beautifully carved fish figures. In 1984 she returned to her three-dimensional human figures in a recreation of Leonardo Da Vinci's "The Last Supper", and has continued working in that style in the 1990's. These more recent works include a sculpture portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe, who as a successful female artist, was an important role model for Marisol, as well as a portrait of Willem de Kooning, another important influence. The three sites below have images of sculptures by Marisol.

Page author: C.A.