Portrait of the Artist

Mariella Bisson

Ebb and Flow

By Noelani Kirschner | July 10, 2017
Emerson Falls, The Storm Passes, 2015, mixed media on linen, 38 x 50 inches (Photo courtesy of Gallery North Star, Grafton VT.)
Emerson Falls, The Storm Passes, 2015, mixed media on linen, 38 x 50 inches (Photo courtesy of Gallery North Star, Grafton VT.)


Mariella Bisson lives in Woodstock, New York. She grew up in Vermont, where she was exposed at a young age to the Hudson River School artists. Bisson works in mixed media, collaging paper and print onto large canvases and then painting over them with oil.

“Emerson Falls is a real place. It’s located in the town where I was born and raised, St. Johnsbury, in the northeastern corridor of Vermont. The Northeast Kingdom is one of the least populated areas on the entire Eastern Seaboard. It is wild, gorgeous, and forested, with deep lakes and rushing streams. It possesses a certain primal energy. Emerson Falls was located on the road where my family lived for several years. I had an older brother who had a lot of problems; he was a troubled soul. The painting was made after he died. The sky is evocative of a storm leaving the area—I symbolized my troubled brother as that storm front. The painting is about a much broader and more universally applicable sense of relief. The energy is moving again, the storm has passed. The rains have come, the river is full—the flow is stronger than resistance now. I mean, I’m painting a big emotional portrait of a river and some rocks, but that’s the meaning of the painting.

People need nature. There is an underlying social and political feeling to all of my work. Nature is precious, it is fragile, and it is changing rapidly. I rarely put any indication of human presence into my landscape paintings because I feel that my own presence making the painting and the other person’s presence looking at the painting are the human element in the work. I’m more concerned with the huge, overarching human effect on the landscape. Not, ‘Oh a barn, it’s got straight lines and there’s a rolling field,’ but ‘This river is high—should it be this high?’ We’ve got climate change and pollution, and threats of pipelines encroaching upon what is left of the open spaces in America. And the current threat to our national parks drives me absolutely crazy. It is unbearable that sacrosanct lands could be open to mining and drilling. Once those things come in, they just don’t leave. These are tough times for nature.”

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