Artist merges time, place and emotion with collage

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Collage artist Marsha Chez is bringing her wild and whimsical creation to the Wilsonville Library throughout the month of October.

Visitors to the Wilsonville Public Library this October shouldn’t be surprised when they come past the library’s double doors to see a giant rabbit dancing with a carrot or a Victorian-era woman with a cat’s head taking tea in a parlor. Both the rabbit and the cat-woman are a part of Marsha Chez’s 20-piece “Oregon Gothic” collage collection, featuring the wild and whimsical, all with underlying satirical observations.

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Chez and her older brother, Tom, were orphaned during the Korean War. When she was too young to remember her birth mother, Chez and her brother were adopted by a couple that she describes as wonderfully brilliant and creative "beatnik" parents in Klamath Falls. Chez’s parents had three biological children after she and Tom had settled in before the couple divorced and Chez’s mother moved the children to Eugene.

For as long as Chez can remember, she has had a unique perspective and had her own self-imagined world of fanciful and fantastic creations. “From a very young age I’ve been taking what I see and giving it a mashup,” Chez said.

Chez’s launch into creative collaging began at a young age but it wasn’t until her husband, Steve, became ill that she found herself spending a lot of time in their 19th century farmhouse in Aurora, surrounded by 60 acres of land. Tucked away in the house with plenty of time on her hands, Chez started her collage collection with fabric applique, scissors and glue, cutting and pasting until she was satisfied — then she discovered Photoshop.

Primarily self-taught, Chez uses her creations to tell stories and unveil deeply-seated emotions within herself and others. She said that there’s something about the emotion in an animal’s face that’s easier for people to connect with than the visage of another human being. “So many people are in a state of loneliness,” she said. “But you see it so much more in a puppy’s face than you do an old woman by herself. Somehow, we’re more open to seeing emotion through animals and creatures, or maybe it’s just too painful to see (in people).”

SUBMITTED PHOTO - A piece from Chezs collection, a giant rabbit daces with his carot companions. Some of Chez’s works are a bit more obvious in terms of their social critique, including a series of lemurs that were disgusted with modern tools and technology like cell phones. In the collection, one of the lemurs finally succeeds in getting an iPhone only to realize that he has no one to call.

“In my work, there is always this kind of sadness that I don’t even put in there, it just comes out and develops like film,” Chez said. “Maybe it’s because we live so far out in the country and my husband is sick and stuff, but there’s an isolation in each of my pieces that originally I tried really hard to get rid of, because I would look at it and say, ‘This is really funny but it makes me want to cry!’ But it is just what it is and I guess that’s because life is so complex.”

But Chez doesn’t want to dictate how people view or react to her creations. As Freddie Mercury said in an interview when asked about the Queen masterpiece “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Chez said that there is no true meaning for each piece and that the truth of the subject is in the personal experience of the audience.

“To me, that’s art,” she said. “I would say that everyone sees something different — I mean, it may be a giant rabbit dancing with a carrot, but the why is up for everyone to interpret for themselves.”

When not working on her full-scale collages, Chez is working on a line of greeting cards and a children’s book. For the book, it would primarily be a picture book with prompts for children and their parents to create their own stories based on the pictures. Chez got the idea from reading bedtime stories with her daughter, Molly.SUBMITTED PHOTO - A piece from Chezs collection,  a Victorian-era woman with a cats head taking tea in a parlor.

“One of my favorite times with my daughter was we used to read ‘Little Bear’ because a lot of times we would just use the illustration to tell the story by the illustration,” Chez said. “Probably, in my whole life, that is one of my favorite memories sitting with her in my arm and just imagining with her.”

Some of Molly’s pet, which Chez considers her grandchildren, are featured in Chez’s works and she hopes to continue to create more pieces for many years to come. “I can’t put a stopper in it and this stuff is coming out of me, and I don’t want to stop it because I’m really loving it,” she said.“I wish that I was 30 so that I had 60 more years to do it.”

As for her library collection, which opens on her birthday, she hopes that people will enjoy her creations and be inspired to make their own, even if their creation is as small as a doodle.

“Art is for everyone,” she said. “All you need to do is create and it is so good for you.”

Contact Claire Colby at 503-636-1281 ext. 113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.