Artist, 91, inspires youngsters to challenge creative side

Allerton artist Marion Hughes is seeking to encourage young people to use their imaginations with artwork created mostly out of paper and other found objects. Her latest exhibit is currently on display at the Allerton branch of the New York Public Library.
Schneps Media / Patrick Rocchio

Marion Hughes, a 91-year-old artist who creates art from discarded objects, is encouraging youngsters to use their own imaginations and get active beyond the ubiquitous electronic games and gadgets that deadends their expressive side.

She presented what she says may be her final exhibit at one of her favorite places: the Allerton Library.

Standing beside a glass case on the second floor of the library, just outside the children’s section of the building, Hughes discussed her philosophy about creating art out of found objects.

In her most recent installation, she used paper, Styrofoam spheres, glue, small paper sticks, as well as some fishing line to simulate water in a fountain.

The dozen or so models on display look like smaller versions of modern outdoor art installations sometimes found in public spaces, and include miniature people, also made of paper, to give the meticulously crafted pieces perspective.

“They are prototypes for larger installations that could be put in parks or public spaces,” said Hughes, adding “I did this because I wanted the children to know that you can do things without buying anything. (The artwork) is paper, scissors and glue.”

Hughes said that it was the fifth year in a row she has exhibited objects created from waste for the children of Allerton.

In previous years she created collections of spaceships and robots, a chorus of women from countries around that world that were made of bleach bottles, and a miniature house, with furniture made of paper, said Hughes.

In 1988, she said that she created a library exhibit of jewelry and flowers, made from bread dough, said Hughes.

Many of the latest creations might perhaps evoke in miniature form the styles of the Unisphere monument in Flushing Meadow Park in Queens or mobiles of the solar system or sundials.

She is now producing an Asian-themed group of pieces, she said.

“These are just models for larger pieces,” she said, posting on a piece of paper in the case that the artwork was powered with imagination, no electronics, thinking, planning and doing.

It took about nine months to make the space-age looking pieces in her spare time, she said.

She is also an accomplished painter and is entirely self-taught, though she got on-the- job training painting china in a factory and being a designer of children’s clothing, she said.

Hughes said that this might very well be her last exhibit for the children at the library, as she is having issues with her vision.

She never sold non-commercial art that wasn’t commissioned, she said. The youngsters in her community don’t really have much art in their lives and she wants to show them what’s possible.

“I don’t do this for money or fame,” said Hughes. “I do it to spread the news that there is so much that you can do if you allow yourself to dream or imagine.”

She added: “You don’t have to go out and buy things all of the time, or have an electronic gadget fill your mind with other people’s thoughts, you can have your own thoughts.”

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at

More from Around NYC