Marsha Pippenger’s art studio is on the second floor of the Requarth Company, a fifth-generation family business specializing in lumber and kitchen design, now run by her husband, Alan. It was started by his great-great-grandfather and has been housed in the same location in downtown Dayton since 1895. Pippenger’s studio is the old blueprint room. In it are original drafting tables and metal pipes attached to the ceiling, once used for hanging building plans. Her father-in-law’s light table and desk outfit the space. “(Alan’s) office is right below me. He likes knowing I’m up here, but we really don’t see each other most of the day. I’m in here, and he’s running the business.”
The Pippengers live in the Oregon District. “After the Oregon shootings ...,” she trails off and tears up, “That really hit me. I got to know Dion Green, his dad died there. His father had planned to paint (Dion’s daughter’s) room as a surprise for her. So, I painted her room. I did a mural on her wall and got to know Dion. I also did a work of art for one of the victims who was shot and lived. I realized then that I love this city.”
After earning a BFA in Printmaking from Ohio Northern University, Pippenger worked in advertising. “Back in the ‘80s it was layout and I had to cut and paste.” Perhaps the industry formed her path into collage art, though a serendipitous encounter with a well-known Dayton artist most certainly did. In 1981, “when we lived in Kansas City, there was an artist who was working on a big ceramic mural. He was coming to where I worked to buy supplies. Nice guy.” Pippenger moved back to Dayton some years later, and attended an artist talk at the Dayton Society of Painters & Sculptors (now Dayton Society of Artists). The artist was familiar, and she realized it was the same man she’d met in Kansas. “In the middle of his talk, the lightbulb went off. It was Bing Davis!” They got to talking and ended up working together. Their daughters would play together at Pippenger’s house while Davis guided her through an independent study with an emphasis on collage.
Arriving full circle again, Pippenger now serves as the president of the board of the DSA, which is celebrating its 85th year. “It was started by artists who were teaching at the Dayton Art Institute school. When the school closed, they saw a need for teaching, showing, and supporting local artists.”
Pippenger, 65, has two grown children, Laura and Nathan. Laura and her family live behind Pippenger’s 1850 house. She can look out across the yard to see her granddaughters running over. “It’s so fun!” she cheers.
Credit: Hannah Kasper Levinson
Credit: Hannah Kasper Levinson
“I’m not a morning person. I just drag out of bed. I could sleep until 1 p.m. My natural routine is being a night owl, but the world doesn’t let you do that. Alan gets up early, he’s been up an hour or two before I get up. He’s had all this time to think about things. I’ll walk out and he’ll launch into whatever he’s been thinking about. I can hardly talk!”
“I’m not a coffee drinker. I drink Coke Zero in the morning,” she confides bashfully. “I never feel fully awake until I’ve showered and dressed. I always feel really impatient about that. I want to get to my studio. I have to take all that time.”
“I try to get (to the studio) around 10-ish if I can make myself. No matter what my best intentions are, it’s usually 9:30 or 10. I come over here most days. Some days I can’t get here right away, especially now that I’m a grandmother. Every so often my daughter will call and say, ‘What are you doing today?’ and I’m like ‘uh oh’ (laughs).”
“I work for as much of the day here as I can. I’ve been working since 10 and I’ll stay ‘til 4, 5, until my eyes get tired. It gets my lower back, it never used to. Sometimes I take a break and go out there (gestures to the cubicles outside her studio where kitchen designers are at work) and lie on the couch. I keep lunch in my refrigerator here and get right back to it.”
Pippenger is part of an artist collective called Women Strong. “The intention was to bring together women of different ages, media and ethnicities who live in different parts of town to build a community around art. There’s that responsibility, too. I take a little break and answer emails and try to keep up with DSA stuff.”
VERSATILITY IN ART
When asked, why collage?, Pippenger describes the medium’s versatility. “I like paper ‘cause I can tear it, crunch it, make it dimensional. It’s a little bit sculptural. You can draw with paper too, because you can manipulate the shapes. I do these big tapestries. I collage strips and then weave them. When I do the big 5 x 8 feet ones, I lay them out (in the office space). I have a piece at the Northwest Library and at the Kettering Library on Far Hills.”
“I taught (public school) for a while, and then I owned an art gallery while our kids were still small in downtown Tipp City, called Conversation Pieces. I had six partners and we got along so well. We owned that for eight years.” After the gallery closed, Pippenger decided to go back for a master’s degree, and landed at Wright State. “In the mornings I was a student, and, in the afternoon, I was teaching.” She was an adjunct Art History instructor at Wright State for 18 years. “I never intended to teach. When I came to Dayton and worked with Bing, he thought I would be a good teacher.”
Pippenger still teaches. In the evening, she instructs three-hour-long Painting & Drawing classes at Kettering College. “That’s the Medical Arts School. It’s affiliated with Kettering Hospital. I teach one or two classes a semester and they’re electives. My classes fill up really fast because they’re so different. They’re a studio format and it’s hands on. Those students at Kettering work really hard, and they like that in my class for a couple hours they’re able to forget about all these other things. I’ve had some really talented students over the years there. I’m in the Physics room — it’s a perfect art room — it’s got big tables and sinks.”
“I head home. We cook a lot.” They check in with their kids, or vice versa, to see if there’s anything interesting for dinner. “They join us, or we join them. If we don’t feel like cooking, we see what they’re fixing for dinner. They’re both really good cooks, my son-in-law bakes bread twice a week.”
“We’re pretty active in our church, Westminster Presbyterian, so sometimes we’ll have a meeting in the evening. That church congregation is the oldest one in Dayton. We have a Tiffany window that is stunning. I’m in a small group and we made ourselves a book club. Most of the time, we read in the evenings. Sometimes we watch the news. And we go to bed. Alan gets up really early and works long hours.”
“I believe in intuition. People say, ‘how do you know what to put where?’ — you’ve got to allow your gut to speak.”
Find out more about the artist’s work at pippengerart.com.
Current and upcoming shows include: Springboro Performing Arts Center, FiberShow’23, Sept. 1-27, 2023
Elemental Love: Women Strong, Advancing Peace through Art, Spina Home in conjunction with the Dayton Literary Peace Prize
A yet untitled one-person show at Woodbourne Library, November
The Angel Falls, a one-person show at the High Street Gallery, Dayton Society of Artists, December