“It Takes A Passion to Survive”

Peace Poles, Paper Mache and Passion

What could these three things possibly have in common?  Well, a force unto herself!  Marta shares her secret passions around art, energy and creativity.  After all, we could use a bit more inspiration from a trusted elder who has made a lifetime commitment to developing her self-expression through artistic works, her local community (wherever she lands!) and her encouragement of other budding artists. I like her motto: “It takes a passion to survive”. I would add to that “and thrive”!

Marta andMarta Nelson and her amazing smile! her amazing smile!

Marta Nelson turned  94 on May 1st and what a life she lives! In her Friday art class, her students say that she is who they want to be when they grow up!

Teaching in the StudioMarta teaching

Marta has been an artist all her life. She had severe asthma as a child and spent a lot of time alone. She never remembers not drawing, and drawing is still a favorite activity. But Marta has distinguished herself in many art fields: drawing, painting, printmaking, paper mache, retablos and paperbooks. The slogan she has posted on the bulletin board where her art class meets is “It takes a passion to survive”. She is the perfect example.

Marta has traveled widely and is a lifelong dedicated learner -she can’t imagine not being curious and interested in the people and places of the world. Among her other activities, she is currently learning to knit and taking lessons on the computer. Marta has been a dancer all her life and the flow of music swirls through many of her paintings. Every morning she does the belly dancing exercises she learned 50 years ago – they help her back!

retabloa retablo in her studio

Marta’s paper mache figures in front of her paintingpaper mache figures in front of painting


She studied paper mache in Mexico with Gemma, a renowned paper artist, and then went on to develop her own techniques.
Ojai is home to the Ojai Studio Artists, a group that Marta and two friends started over 30 years ago. It was the first art tour of its kind and is famous world wide. The Tour has grown, now encompassing more than 50 excellent artists of all media, and Marta still participates regularly. Her home, in a lovely Ojai retirement community, is a rich and vibrant studio and a delight to visit. Dedicated to peace, Marta celebrates International Peace Day every September 21st, and has been instrumental in raising funds and establishing several peace poles throughout the Ojai Valley. The one outside her studio window provides a great example of the love and encouragement Marta provides –one of the chefs at Marta’s senior community pours endless love into creating beautiful dishes for the residents, and carving the fruits and vegetable on the platters. One day he carved Planting the Flag at Iwo Jima on a watermelon! It was stunning. Marta suggested he needed to begin working in a more permanent medium. He started in on wood, and created an entire peace pole, topped by a dove, which now has been placed on the green space outside Marta’s window for everyone to enjoy. She began a collection to pay him for his work and he received an an anonymous donation of $500 for his art. With her continuing encouragement he is now carving in marble.

one of the cats in her painting is her newly adopted “Matisse”       Image of Cat Painting

I doubt that “retirement” is a word that ever crosses Marta’s mind. The creativity in her life continues to open doors full of rich experiences and new people!