Reflecting on light at Marion Art Center’s ‘Illuminations’

Jul 18, 2023

MARION — At first glance the artwork of duo Tamalin Baumgarten and Meredith Leich, on display at the Marion Art Center, doesn’t have too much in common.

Baumgarten, a painter, captures scenes of New England — simple geometric white-walled buildings and South Coast waters. Leich, a multimedia artist, projects the images of drawings on icelandic glaciers and beach rocks on Cuttyhunk Island.

But according to Baumgarten, the pair’s work is linked by their shared use of light — giving the show its title, “Illuminations.”

“We both use light [as] a way of revealing an uncanny mystery,” she said. The pair also work together as co-directors of the Cuttyhunk Island Artist Residency, added Leich.

In her work, Baumgarten uses oil paints on a “very smooth panel.”

“I sand [the panel] very smooth and then I use several thin layers of paint to build up, so some areas are more transparent and some areas are more opaque,” she said.

Baumgarten said she is drawn to the simple geometric shapes of many New England buildings as well as “the way light hits a side of the building, especially white buildings.”

“The buildings I paint are white, because they really reflect the sunlight. You have the opportunity to have a nice contrast between the light and the shadow.”

The simple shapes of coastal Massachusetts buildings also “allows for an abstract quality,” said Baumgarten. “When you have different shapes, like the square shaped window, or the triangle angle on a house, it lets me kind of blend realism with a little bit of the abstract.”

For Leigh, Baumgarten’s work is “gorgeous. The way that she's able to get both this precision and luminosity, so it doesn't feel like bogged down but it feels rich — just stunning.”

While the light in Baumgarten’s work reflects off the white canvas of a building’s geometry, Leich’s use of light reflects off the slick white walls of glaciers and rough surfaces of rocks in a series of projections that explores the effects of climate change.

“My desire is to kind of meditate on those themes without approaching them from too dark a perspective, but rather to kind of invite people through a sense of mystery or wonder to think about these concepts or issues and kind of stay with them for a little while.”

Leich described her experience working with a glaciologist on a previous project using satellite imagery that was “very tech [and] computer driven” and how she wanted to do something more “immediate, simple [and] clear” with the work on display at the Marion Art Center.

Leich’s work starts as charcoal drawings that are then projected onto the natural landscape.

“I'm going back to simple charcoal drawings, and I just brought a battery powered projector … it all needs to go on a single pack … I didn't even get good footage of the first time I did it, because I couldn't get good footing of the tripod for the camera,” said Leich. “But it was really a cool experience because it was as much about the community of people who witnessed it in real time.”

Leich called the live projection the project’s “first art event,” with filming the projection and then creating still images from the video being the second and third “art events.”

“My paintings have a lot of layers, so does her [work] and I love how she combines her drawings with the natural world by projecting them onto glaciers, rocks, buildings,” said Baumgarten of Leich’s art. “There's just so many layers to what she does that you can really get pulled in.”

“Illuminations” will be on display at the Marion Art Center through Friday, Aug. 4. For more information, visit