Legacy of an artist
When Marguerite Bierman took her last breath at 10:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, the community lost one of the most creative, generous and intuitive artists ever to call Williamsport home.
“It’s the deepest agony I ever experienced. What hurts the most perhaps is that once the memories come to an end, you can’t make any more,” Bierman’s husband Norman Wengert said.
Bierman’s colorful legacy can be found throughout the city – from the YWCA’s vibrant rotunda to the striking beaux-arts foyer of the James V. Brown Library.
“She continuously gave generously of her time and talent to the library in support of keeping this beautiful building,” James V. Brown Library Director Robin Glossner said.
But maybe even more than her art, her spirit left those who knew her humbled and inspired.
“She looked at the world in a very positive way. She was a creative, gentle and kind person. She definitely is going to be missed,” Bierman’s friend Karen Pinsonneault said.
Bierman always had an eye for beauty and was exceptionally smart, according to her brother George Bierman. She was valedictorian at Loyalsock High School.
“She had to share the award with a boy because Loyalsock never had a girl win valedictorian,” Wengert said.
Bierman worried about the disempowering impact of modern culture’s preferencing of men over women.
“I feel a strong need to encourage young women because I feel their identity
is so screwed up in our society,” Bierman told West Branch Life a few months before her passing. “They’re confused and don’t know where to land.”
In addition to mentoring young women artists, Bierman encouraged women to embrace instead of resist their feelings.
“There’s only one universal language. Every human being has the same full spectrum of feeling yet every human head thinks differently. If we ever want consensus, it’s going to have to come through feeling,” Wengert said.
Feeling and intuition were particularly important to Bierman. Especially toward her final months, Bierman chose colors for their uplifting emotional resonance.
“Every color is a feeling and every feeling is a color. She loved rainbows and all positive color. Every time she anticipated a rainbow, she’d run outside to see if there was one,” Wengert said.
Bierman perhaps is best known for her decorative art. Her gilding and faux marbeling can still be seen in the sanctuaries of numerous area churches. She also decorated private residences, including Pinsonneault’s.
“We were selling our house and one client wanted to paint the entire house white – paint over everything done by Marguerite,” Pinsonneault said.
Pinsonneault explained the buyer’s intention to the painter.
“I told him I thought it was a shame. The painter said, ‘I won’t be the painter that’s known as the guy that painted over Marguerite Bierman’s work,'” Pinsonneault said.
Pinsonneault eventually found a buyer who loved Bierman’s embellishments as much as she did.
After Bierman was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, physical difficulties prevented her from climbing scaffolding and continuing work as a decorative artist, Wengert said. So Bierman took up fine arts painting, especially landscapes.
“Even as she diminished, she continually initiated projects. Not just as something to live for but to continue to fulfill her own legacy,” Wengert said.
While there will be no public memorial service for Bierman, she held a funeral of sorts a few weeks prior to her death.
“Marguerite has always been a trend-setter,” her brother said. “She basically thought, ‘I don’t want all this going on after I’m dead, I want to know what’s happening.'”
Bierman hosted a Celebration of Life ceremony at DiSalvo’s restaurant in October. The event featured live music, ballet dancers and a six-course meal. Over 240 people attended.
“It was almost like a Broadway production. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Marguerite,” Bierman said.
In addition to her generosity, Bierman was known for her determined nature – especially when fulfilling an artistic vision.
“She had drive. She fought right until the very end,” Bierman said.
Bierman’s remains were interred at her and Wengert’s farm in Cascade Township on Thursday.
“We spent all day hand-digging her grave,” Wengert said.
What would Bierman want her legacy to be?
“What it is,” Wengert said. “She loved. It’s not a question of what she loved but that she loved.”