1955 - 2018
MARIKA, Denise Denise Marika, a mother, artist, friend, and activist, died July 10th in her home after a recurrence of breast cancer. She was 63 years old. At once both political and deeply personal, Denise's work reflected her bold, fiercely independent spirit, her courageous vulnerability, and her fierce loyalty to those less fortunate. Her long-time assistant, Tom Fahey, remembers her as one of the strongest people he's ever known: "No matter how hard and unfair life got for her personally, she always seemed to keep perspective and was always focused on her mission and vision. A mission to give those a voice that had none. A vision to live life in an artful and meaningful way." Denise was born in New York City in 1955. She attended the Putney School in Vermont and then Pomona College in California, where she graduated in 1977. She went on to complete a Masters of Fine Arts at UCLA in 1984. A resident of Brookline, Mass., for more than 25 years, Denise was known for her work as a solo artist but also as a professor committed to the development and promotion of young artists. While her longest tenure was at the Massachusetts College of Art, Denise also taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Rhode Island School of Design. Her exhibitions included solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and MassMoCA in North Adams, Mass., as well as a residency at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Her last solo show, "Bodywaves" was exhibited in February at the Howard Yezerski Gallery in South Boston. At the time of her death, Denise was collaborating with Luanne Witkowski on a show that will open on September 5 at the Kingston Gallery in South Boston, where works of both artists will be on display. A fearless and enthusiastic traveler, Denise's personal and professional ventures extended far beyond the Northeast United States to areas as far away as Cambodia, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. In addition to exhibiting internationally, Denise worked as a Fulbright Specialist, using her art as a tool for advocacy and teaching art and social practice in Nepal and Sri Lanka. Always curious and willing to help, Denise shot and produced a number of documentary videos for non-profit organizations in the fields of healthcare, education, disability, and human rights. In the hopes of extending her support of grassroots efforts, Denise founded a nonprofit, the Marika Foundation for Social Action, which distributes grants to social justice projects worldwide. In addition to her contributions as an artist and activist, Denise will be remembered for her personal gifts: her fearlessness, ingenuity, good humor, and warmth. Denise spoke truth not just to those in power, but to everyone who crossed her path. She lived boldly, never holding back, embracing the widest possible range of ideas and people with her wise and compassionate heart. She was a loving mother, trusted confidante, and loyal friend. She is survived by her children, Desta Marika and Erik Marika-Rich, her mother, Marietta Lutze, and her rescue dog, Maya. A memorial will be held in Lexington on Sunday August 26th. Donations in her memory can be made to her foundation at or in support of her daughter's run in the B.A.A. Half-Marathon to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at In a post on social media, Fahey wrote directly to Denise, expressing what so many of us feel: "You were an amazing woman.... and your impact on the world will never stop, the things you set into motion will feed back into infinity. I love you."

View the online memorial for Denise MARIKA

To plant trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published by Boston Globe from Aug. 3 to Aug. 5, 2018.
Memorial service
, Lexington, MA
Add a Message

Not sure what to say?

8 Entries
To Desta and Erik, I just read the review of your mother's new exhibit and learned of her death. I am so sorry to know about your loss and the loss for all of us who cared for her and admired her. I regret so much her early death. And I send you my deepest sympathy.

Sincerely, Carolyn Peter
Carolyn Peter
September 14, 2018
I was fortunate to know in Denise a vividly intelligent, engaged, deeply caring individual. Her push to better the lives of others never ended and she made concrete differences for so many. She was a gifted, delightful, and powerful person. I will miss her.
August 20, 2018
for service to students -
Daniel Szabo
August 17, 2018
Extending heartfelt condolences and prayers of comfort to the family and friends of Denise, she will be missed. May the hope and promise of everlasting life sustain and comfort you during this difficult time.
John 11:24,25
August 9, 2018
Denise and I were roomies on many MassArt trips to Haystack. As a fellow artist, fellow teacher and dear friend, I deeply miss her presence in this world. Although I trained in the performing arts and Denise in the visual arts, our work has kinship through the use of the body as an expressive medium. She had a strong influence on my video/performance work. As someone else mentioned, Denise always said Go for it! if I was waffling on a project or a new travel venture. Making art until the day she died, and giving generously of her talent and resources, Denise will always be an inspiration.
Dawn Kramer
August 6, 2018
Denise I will miss your presence on this plane. You were an example of hard work, passion, integrity, and inspiration. I am forever grateful for the impact and influence you had on the world, and on my own work, path and life. Much of my work would not exist without your encouragement and love. That's what it really comes down to - LOVE. You loved your work, your family, your friends, and students and it was felt everywhere! Thank you.
TT Baum
August 5, 2018
Beloved friend, I'm going to hear your voice in my ear for so many reasons.
You will yell "jump" when I am on the edge of any decision. You will encourage risk-taking, fun-having, and bold truth-telling.
Your influence carries the mountain winds of all the landscapes where you ventured.
Thank you.
Sally James
August 5, 2018
I worked a little with Denise when she got a grant for a video installation in Brookline Village. She was perfect to work with and fun to be around. I wish I'd known her better. And I'm sorry she has left us too soon.
John Bassett
August 5, 2018
Showing 1 - 8 of 8 results