by Gracie Pratt
Marleen De Waele-De Bock is many things: she is an artist, a teacher, a fashion designer, a seamstress, and an interior designer. She has what she calls “a good eye [and] good taste,” characteristics that inform her creative senses and are beautifully demonstrated in her recent work.
De Waele-De Bock has no trouble defining the stages of her art. First, there was the early work she did while in art school in Belgium, the country where she grew up. Then, when she moved to South Africa, she started a fashion line and continued painting, focusing on the colorful marketplaces and traditional African sculptures. After yet another move over a decade ago, this time to the United States, the subject of her work transitioned again. “I’m not in Africa,” she explained. “I can’t do that anymore.”
De Waele-De Bock’s newest work offers a fresh, calm quality and an insightful look into where she is today, both in terms of location and state of mind. Her imaginative landscapes reflect a new set of ideals and express the desire to honor the small glimpses of beauty and life peeking through even in unlikely circumstances.
The inspiration to capture nature in her paintings surprised De Waele-De Bock, and yet now she acknowledges that she finds inspiration everywhere. Recently, when on a trip to Cincinnati, De Waele-De Bock recalls, she noticed a small bit of grass growing between two slabs of concrete. The light fell on the grass and cast a distinct shadow. “That might be my next piece,” she said. Though the small things get her attention—“a movement, a curve, the music of it”—her paintings are large and imaginative in scope and only vaguely resemble her original inspiration. As she says, “It starts in reality and ends in fantasy.”
De Waele-De Bock’s paintings are crafted and textured with skillful techniques and a keen eye. The first layer is done in gel, a flexible paint that allows her to create an abstract background before she incorporates a more distinct color palette. When she has created the base and some initial outlines of shapes with acrylic paint, she begins the scraping process. To “scrape,” she uses a small craft metal to make sometimes-wide, sometimes-intricate cuts and dashes. Then she paints another layer. Then more scraping. Then another layer of paint. The process is long and requires a dedicated hand, but the result is a masterpiece. Her finished paintings have a unique texture and depth, almost a three-dimensional component.
De Waele-De Bock’s paintings are highly esteemed, and she has been featured in exhibitions in Belgium, South Africa, and the United States. Her work is sought after by curators worldwide and is currently featured at LeQuire Gallery in Nashville, Reinike Gallery in Atlanta, Ann Tower Gallery in Lexington, Gallery Veronique in Cincinnati, and the gallery she opened herself after moving to Nashville, the BelArt Studio & Gallery in the historic Arcade, downtown.
For more information about Marleen De Waele-De Bock and her work, visit her website www.marleensartwork.com.