Twin artists' legacy lives on
Vern Voth’s aunts, Marie and Martha, created several hundred art pieces using wheat marquetry, and the legacy left after their artistic careers ended made him proud.
In wheat marquetry, partial or whole wheat strands are arranged into designs or pictures.
“I don’t think there are a lot of people who are doing this kind of art,” he said. “They’ve done many pictures, and even did Union Station in Kansas City. It’s supposedly hanging some place in there.”
Union Station wasn’t the only subject the sisters were commissioned to create. They also were asked to make a Liberty Bell twice as large as the original, which was displayed at the Smithsonian Museum for the United States’ bicentennial.
Several of those pieces are on display through September at Goessel Mennonite Heritage Museum in homage to the local twin artists.
“One day I was walking by the three we had and thought I’d like to see more,” museum director Fern Bartel said. “Because there are so many people in the area who have them, it was easy to tap on their shoulders and get them to bring theirs. If I was in Kansas City it would be much more of a challenge.”
Martha and Marie started using an entire room solely for their projects, nephew Nelson Voth said.
“They always were working on something,” he said. “They started off doing wheat-weaving stuff and then got into marquetry.”
The process was very detail-oriented, and the pictures they made were shockingly realistic, Bartel said.
“It’s astounding, their artistry and their ability to see perspective and recreate,” she said. “Just from a picture, they could interpret that and make it look just like you could walk up the steps to the porch.”
The sisters’ work varied from using wheat kernels as a medium to using grain stalks, and sometimes coloring the wheat straw they used.
With Marie having died a few years ago, and Martha now living in a nursing home, Vern enjoys that his aunts are receiving their recognition.
“It makes me feel good that it’s my relatives who did that type of thing,” he said.
Despite having some high profile works, Marie and Martha weren’t ones to charge steep prices.
“A lot of the time it was just to cover the cost of the frame,” Nelson said.
While none of the family has pursued wheat marquetry since, they all treasure Martha and Marie’s work.
“A lot of them are enjoying it,” Vern said. “A lot of them have pieces of art or have had them do things, like one of our house.”
Last modified Aug. 27, 2020