Orr Marshall

Self Portrait, 1986

Orr Marshall, of Bayside, California, died Sept. 4, 2023, at the age of 86. He is survived by his wife, Fukiko; his children Stephen, Nicholas, and Sonya; three grandchildren; and his siblings Ahlene, Delmar, and Suzanne.

Orr was born July 19, 1937, in Toledo, Ohio, to Charles and Juanita Marshall and was interested in art and foreign languages from a very young age. He attended Ottowa Hills High School in Toledo and then moved to the East Coast to attend Yale University. He received a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Fine Arts from Yale where he studied under Josef Albers, a famous Bauhaus artist known for his study and teaching of color. Orr spent his final year of school traveling and studying art in Europe.

After graduating from Yale in 1961, Orr moved to the Bay Area where he taught at the California College of Arts and Crafts. In the Bay Area, Orr was able to expand his foreign language study from European languages (French, German, and Russian) to Asian languages (Cantonese, Mandarin, and Japanese). He met and made friends with native speakers of these languages, including his future wife, Fukiko, who was a student at CCAC. Fukiko helped him with a successful application for a prestigious Japanese government scholarship to study at the National Institute of Fine Arts in Tokyo. He lived in Japan again from 1968 to 1971 with his young family before moving to Humboldt County.

Orr moved to this area to teach art at College of the Redwoods, where he worked from 1971 to 1976. He was well known in Humboldt County as an artist and was very active in the arts community including in the Redwood Arts Association. His artistic inspiration came from dreams, exploring questions of visual and verbal communication and representation, and his travels around the world. The influence of his time spent living in Japan and his love and interest in Japanese language and culture — from ukiyoe woodblock prints and calligraphy to modern cartoon, manga, and street culture — is clear in many of his works.

As noted in the Oct. 3, 2013, North Coast Journal article, “An Extraordinary Oddist,” Orr was focused and meticulous in his art, often taking longer than two years to complete one painting. In the article, he shared, “People talk about attention deficit disorder these days. It makes me think that what I have is attention surplus disorder!” Orr’s work is incredibly detailed and he devoted his life to giving visual form to his imagination and ideas through paintings, drawings, sculpture and film.

Local shows featuring Orr’s work included A Bridge to Japan: Orr Marshall Retrospective at the Morris Graves Art Museum from 2006 to 2007; Orr Marshall: Oddworks at Sewell Gallery in 2013; Unseen Works, a joint show with Fukiko at Black Faun Gallery in 2017; and most recently, Orr Marshall: Travels of an Artist at Epitome Gallery in 2021. Orr took part in many local group shows, displayed art at local businesses, and was the subject of the book, To Japan and Back, published by Humboldt State University Press in 2002. His work was included in an exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco in 2005, and in shows in Ohio, Michigan, across California, and in Tokyo, Japan.

Orr’s legacy is his unique and evocative art works. He was grateful and fortunate to have many friends and supporters of his work in this community. A celebration of Orr Marshall’s life and art was held on on Saturday, March 23, 2024, 2 to 5 p.m. at his home.