Marie Marcus is not an artist by trade, and has not, in fact, ever sold a painting. She does her work for its own sake. For many years, her work graced the halls of her husband's law firm, Marcus and Montgomery. Now it hangs on the walls of her own home, and her children's and grandchildren's homes. "She has been painting forever," says her grandson Brian. "I have several of her paintings hanging in my house."
Marcus has seen many things during her near century of life. Born in 1908, she moved to Idaho from Iowa and grew up on a farm in Payette. She took a few art classes at the University of Idaho, where she worked for the dean of the law school and met her future husband, Claude Marcus. She worked as a nurse, then became a mother to three boys. She raised her sons in Idaho City, where her husband was the district attorney of Boise County.
Once her boys were grown and out of the house, she began to paint again. This was in the late 1950s. She and her husband moved to Boise, where he started a private law practice. They built a home to host visits from their growing number of grandchildren. In a corner of the house, downstairs, she painted.
Her subjects are Idaho and the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. A painting of the Columbia River sits in her breakfast nook, and a scene of a shepherd and his flock in the Owyhee mountains graces her living room, over the fireplace. One of her 11 grandchildren, Brian Marcus, remembers that particular painting presiding over many family Christmas celebrations.
She has seen many, many changes in Idaho over the years, but the Idaho that she remembers, and the one that she paints, is stored in her imagination. It is, in fact, stored in our collective imagination. It is the Idaho we all wish to remember: the open fields; the crumbling barns; the lone thistle by the stream. It is the scope of the land, on a small scale. It is what we think of when we think of Idaho; she paints what we picture. Marcus has captured those places and frozen them in time for all of us. She has painted the scenes that we always see, that we mean to remember as they fly past our field of vision on the highway. She stops us there, and brings us back to them. Her work lets us see those scenes, and to remember them.
She is modest about her talent, and quick to find fault with it. Viewing one painting, she comments that the building is situated in the center of the painting. "Everyone knows you don't do that," she says. "You don't put something in the middle of the painting." For her view and the image that she is presenting, however, it works; it brings into focus what is often left on the outskirts and overlooked and sets it in center stage.
It is to this vision of Idaho that we return: to the quiet scenes and the rural views; to the hills unfettered by inevitable growth; to the buildings that have stood the test of time. It is the view of a woman who has spent a full, rich life in Idaho, and whose love of the place is made tangible in her paintings.