Marlene Greening: Artist, Entrepreneur
By Heather Hunter
Greening met me at the front gate of her vast property. A trim blonde woman in trendy white jeans, she defies the stereotype of the older woman. Her soft English accent makes it seem she is to the manor born, a 5 acres estate in Guildwood, but she is a career woman. Her work in an art gallery and as a real estate broker likely contributed to the astonishing beauty of her home’s design and eclectic furnishings, gathered on her world travels.
Marlene is very much involved in the projects of her 3 daughters and 7 grandchildren. A grandson is into Aquaponics, a system that raises fish and plants in a symbiotic relationship on their farm in Markham and where her daughter Caroline is also starting a niche industry breeding heritage chickens called The Delta Bresse whose stock comes from British Columbia. Her grandson’s fiancee, Miranda, is involved in the “Bimby Bees in my Backyard Project”. Miranda’s homemade hives will provide homes for hundreds of species of bees when placed on Marlene’s section of the Scarborough Bluffs.
Marlene is the sun around which her family revolves.
Her property reaches to the water’s edge for which she has riparian rights. To stabilize the bluffs, Marlene has planted lush indigenous vegetation and spent countless dollars to build an in-ground Caisson wall, concrete and steel pillars 50’ deep, along the top to reduce erosion. A warrior in defense of her haven, a natural tract along Lake Ontario, she has fought to preserve her beloved bluffs and beach in their natural state taking on the TRCA (Toronto Regional Conservation Authority) which seeks to turn the beach into a foot and bike trail with a hard shoulder blocking the view of the water.
But first and foremost, she is an artist. Her home is itself a colourful work of art. As she moves gracefully from room to room her passions are revealed to the awe-struck visitor in her paintings. Most striking is the triptych (3 panels), a backdrop in the breezy sunroom overlooking the lake merging art and life. The painting depicts an idealized vision of her home atop the bluffs, an expansive white heritage-type house crowning rolling lawns with trees and flowers cascading down to a sandy beach below. The colours are dazzling; some trees are blue. The lake shimmers like a sea of diamonds. Her unique style is an alluring blend of realism and impressionism.
Nana walls, bi-folding glass doors, open up the gleaming white kitchen and sunroom to the world inviting the outdoors in, giving an unobstructed view of Lake Ontario with sea gulls drifting by on a cloudless blue sky. Bamboo furniture is arranged in cozy clusters on gleaming marble floors having the feel of a Caribbean terrace. A floor to ceiling aquarium continues the theme, extending onto the walls in a painted sea of blues and greens.
On the mantle of the fireplace, a large family portrait captures the happiness of her 3 daughters seated below a flowering pergola amidst trees and flowers, again embellished by the artist’s imagination. On the way up white winding stairs to her studio hang paintings from her series entitled, “The Cock of the Walk”. “Camel in Sandstorm” shows the animal best suited to the desert. “Crow in the Canopy”, “Salmon in Spray” and “Man Among the Stars” all depict subjects perfectly suited to their environments, thus the dominant species or the cock of the walk. Her studio is bright with vaulted ceiling, large windows and track lighting for working at night. Every room of her home is light and airy.
Marlene sold her first painting when she was only 18 and believes that, “Anybody could and should paint because you are releasing emotions which produce beautiful things.” She states emphatically, “I recommend to anybody to take up painting.” Indeed, it is freeing for each of us to be creative, but few people have her drive and talent. For me, it is enough to be an admirer of her work. Her masterpieces are thrilling and uplifting to the spirit. Paintings are windows to the artist’s soul.