80 Plus and Going Strong

Marlene Yu’s 80th Birthday Gala and Pink Marble Unveiling at the Marlene Yu Museum

Marlene Yu’s 80th Birthday Gala and Pink Marble Unveiling at the Marlene Yu Museum

Throughout fifty-plus years of creation, Marlene Tseng Yu has consistently expressed her love of nature, and has steadfastly shown it in her own multi-dualistic style of art on canvases as large as 54 feet in length.  The “Marlene Tseng Yu: 80 Plus and Going Strong” exhibit commemorates her 80th birthday and the Marlene Yu Museum’s mission to preserve, present, document, and interpret her life and works. 

Yu is a pioneer in the environmental green movement in art.  Her works give honor to the beauty of nature, and call for heightened awareness and appreciation of our environment.  Her prolific career includes over 4000 nature-inspired works across more than 35 series.  In 2001 Yu founded Rainforest Art Foundation to find other artists who share her desire to preserve Earth. 

In a revolutionary style of art, Yu’s paintings illustrate multiple dualities.  In her artwork, she mirrors themes in nature, blends physical and emotional subject matter, applies techniques she has developed from her Eastern and Western backgrounds to highlight global concerns, and provides opportunities to appreciate her paintings from different points of view.

Like patterns in nature that remain the same, yet are also constantly changing, Yu stays true to her remarkable style.  Each of her paintings is at the same time as fresh and original as it is recognizably a “Marlene Yu Painting”.  For example, her signature white spaces can be seen in all of her series, and yet represent airy, sometimes quick-moving forms like clouds, foam, and bubbles, or slow-moving solids like ice, coral, and stalactites.

Yu purposefully synthesizes themes in Chinese landscape painting and American abstract expressionism.  By regarding nature with respect and awe, and personifying the subject matter with what she calls the “rhythm and movement of moods”, she establishes what some critics call “a dreamy borderline” between realism and abstraction. 

Yu has taken painterly skills that traditional art is known for and bridged it with the contemporary art community’s first steps towards ecological betterment.  Before “activist art” became its own style of art, she had gently, yet persistently planted seeds of “awareness art” through boldly colorful and detailed compositions, with a passion for technical precision.  She integrates ancient Eastern philosophy of art, such as representative negative space and yin and yang balance, with her own modern and masterful application of acrylic.  Her compositions extend past the edges of the canvases, and often on a grand scale, allowing the viewer to be immersed in wonderment of her vast, imaginative portrayal of nature.

Spatial relativity in nature is evident from within her nature-based oeuvres, besides where the viewer is standing, and even in how they are displayed.  The same painting may be concurrently interpreted from a “bird’s eye” aerial view, within the natural subject itself, and yet also under the microscope.  Additionally, Yu’s compositions can be viewed from far away as well as up close in detail.  Furthermore, her art is communicated from several perspectives—straight on versus from elevated viewpoints, on flat versus curved walls, and hung vertically or horizontally (which is why she autographs many of her works diagonally).

Marlene Tseng Yu on her 80th Birthday in front of her artwork, 80 times her size

Marlene Tseng Yu on her 80th Birthday in front of her artwork, 80 times her size

Yu’s artwork truly needs to be experienced in person, up close, from various angles, and in living color.  Photographs of Yu standing next to her mural-sized paintings to show their scale still do not do justice to the simultaneously enveloping and expansive masterpieces.  Her recent 20-by-40-foot “Pink Marble in Hot Spring” artwork is the signature piece for this exhibit, 80 times her size, inspired by trips to the South through Tennessee and Arkansas.  The exhibit dates are September 30, 2017 to May 2, 2018 and September 5, 2018 to May 1, 2019. 

Stephanie Lusk

Director, Marlene Yu Museum and Rainforest Art Foundation

July 6, 2017

Water: Element of Life

This exhibit features water/ice related selections from across Yu's 35+ series of work. Vibrant blues and purples paired with hints of green, gold, white, black, and brown dominate this exhibit as it provokes the viewer to think about one of Earth's most valuable resources: water - element of life.

One of Yu's goals is to show the movement, beauty, and struggles in nature through her massive abstractions on canvas. Glacial melting is her favorite topic to paint, and she didn't realize when she began the series many years ago how it would become such a global issue today. Water is a resource we don't often think about on a daily basis in a country like America where many of us live in homes with endless sources of water with the turn of a knob.


From the Director


Water is so dynamic—life-giving and life-taking, calming and exciting—and yet we often take this important resource for granted. 

In some organisms, up to 90% of their body weight comes from water. We can go for a month or so without food, but only a week or so without water. Every year, we hearof floods and victims drowning. A warm bubble bath, waves on the beach, and a babbling brook provide scenes and sounds of relaxation. As a whitewater kayaker, rushing waterfalls thrill the adrenaline junkie in me, and a hot shower and hot runningwater after a day on the river seem luxurious. In some countries today, clean potablewater is a scarce resource to attain in jugs after miles of walking. In the U.S., we can easily take for granted  over a dozen different sink, shower and tub faucets for instantaneous, temperature-controlled water right in our own homes. 

Across multiple series, Marlene Yu's recognizable style developed through the years highlights the beauty, motion, depth and forms of water.  In her words, she likes to "capture the spirit of the universe, its rhythm and movements, its quiet and angry moods." 

"Water - Element of Life" will be a gorgeous, breathtaking exhibit to commemorate the Marlene Yu Museum’s first birthday, and allow people to experience their relation to water in new ways. I hope you will join me in supporting the Museum at the Preview Gala. It will be the first new exhibit in the main exhibition hall since the Grand Opening a year ago. 

Thank you to everyone for your generous support and words of encouragement as we continue to grow.  Please tell your friends about us! 

Stephanie Lusk
Director, Marlene Yu Museum

MY fashion by Marlene Yu

January 21, 2016 - May 31, 2017

Enjoy the paintings each of our fashion designs was derived from in this walk-through exhibit. Dresses, ties, bow ties, and scarves feature some of Yu's artwork.

MY Birthday

Take a journey through the first year of Marlene Yu Museum with the MY Birthday Exhibit. Enjoy the media wall featuring some of the prominent articles about the Museum last year, sign our yearbooks featuring Facebook photos, posts, reviews, and comments from the year, and peruse the timelines outlining all that we have accomplished.