Visual Art

Artist and Curator Lesli Marshall Gets a Bigger Canvas, Thanks to a Commission from Facebook

It would be fair to say that Dallas-Fort Worth appreciates good art. Murals have cropped up in nearly every corner of interest and neighborhood with heart, and Lesli Marshall, owner of Articulation Art, has played a big role in beautifying the city. Just stop by Pecan Lodge for proof; Marshall painted that wall as part of last year’s 42 Murals Project, and she tells the Observer that the project paved the way for her most ambitious job to date.

“There was a lot of press around 42 Murals, and I guess from that press and things going on I was contacted by a design firm in California,” Marshall says. “They had seen my style of work on the Pecan Lodge mural and they really liked the hands and kind of the weird lines and all the colors.”

Marshall was not aware of who she would be working for until the Californian design firm called her to let her know she had the job. She’d be designing a mural for the lobby of Facebook’s Fort Worth Data Center. Mock-ups were ordered and Marshall went to work, pushing herself further than ever before. This mural was her first to incorporate sculpture and video as well.

“I came up with the concept to do two hands but coming together, but I also wanted to, for the first time for me, do a mixed-media mural so I presented that to them,” she says. “Instead of it just being painted that I could actually build sculptures and put that on top of my painted mural so they approved it and I was super proud because it’s exactly my concept and style that I wanted to do.”
Over the course of three months, Marshall sawed, painted, blow-torched and sweat as Facebook’s newest artist-in-residence. She, along with fellow artists Daniel Driensky and Sarah Reyes of Exploredinary, painstakingly documented the piece, titled We Are All Connected, from construction to completion, and compiled the journey in a four-minute-long video which will play muted and on a loop at the site of the installation.

The Making of 'We Are All Connected' by Lesli Marshall from Exploredinary on Vimeo.

The piece is yet another in the stellar collection of works commissioned by Facebook at nearly all of their offices and buildings as part of their artist-in-residence program. The program is designed to help boost employee morale and inspire creativity, something that Marshall and her company Articulation Art have championed here in Dallas.

“When I started my company nine years ago, I had worked in a corporate environment before at an ad agency,” Marshall says. “I had a cubicle; I had been in those environments where it’s very stale and not creative and whenever I branched out on my own one of the biggest things I wanted to do was to bring a new energy, color, a new environment and a new conversation to the corporate world.”

So far Marshall has worked with nearly 100 corporate clients in DFW and heads the artist-in-residence program at Nationstar Mortgage, which was inspired by Facebook’s program in 2014 and has commissioned more than 100 installations, curated by Marshall.

“It’s been interesting because I as a curator and an artist also really want to push it like as far as possible with the installations and things to make it really intriguing and weird,” Marshall says. “I want people to walk in and be like ‘What is that? I don’t get it.’ That’s great, because it’s making you think about something different. You’re not just walking by a painting that you know exactly what it is, and those are great too though. So I like having a mix where people have to stop and think a little longer about what they’re looking at.”

The intermingling between the art world and the corporate world and her personal need to push herself with every project is what spurs Marshall to bring these places to life. Encouraging the suit-and-tie set to open their minds and work with artists changes the conversation in places that are too often seen as constricting environments — all while serving as an opportunity for some of Dallas’ best artists to showcase their work in a way that brings utility and joy to the workplace.

But of course not every business is ready to turn their lobbies into Technicolor vistas of psychedelic cactus and giant metal hands. And not every installation goes as smoothly, especially when trying to reconcile the stylistic differences of the artists Marshall works with and the ultimate vision of the client.
“You know there’s always going to be some hits and some misses. You’re going to knock some out of the park, and sometimes some are a little mediocre but that’s all part of the process,” Marshall says. “I think through the experience of doing this for a while I can kind of already recognize, ‘OK this artist, this is their type of work, oh they can do this,’ and that reflects that but it’s still their style.”

As for now, Marshall says she’s not sure what the future holds. After working for a giant like Facebook, it wouldn’t be surprising to see her impact spread further than before, but she says she will be satisfied with beautifying spaces wherever she can, pushing the envelope every step of the way.