Marsha Owett was born in 1967 in Soviet Moscow, to a renowned physicist father and a dissident art collector mother. At a time when all culture was state-mandated, her mother held illegal salons out of the family's small city apartment, risking violent conflicts with the police, such as the Bulldozer Exhibition. Through her mother, Owett grew up amongst a community of Soviet Nonconformist artists such as Ilya Kabakov, Oscar Rabin, and Komar & Melamid and was home schooled in order to avoid state propaganda. Naturally, painting was a strong focus.
In 1977, the family was exiled to the United States. Her father, renowned physicist Rudolf Kazarinov, soon began working at Bell Labs, and her mother reopened the salons with fellow ex-patriots at their new home in New Jersey. Owett continued painting throughout the long acclimation to the American school system.
Owett developed a passion for photography in her teens while documenting life at an arts-focused boarding school in rural England, and went on to study painting at the School of Visual Arts in New York. After school, she lived and painted amongst the fervent East Village art scene, during the era of the Tompkins Square Park Riots, while assisting artist James Rizzi.
In 1993, Owett left the city for a tight-knit arts community in the rural Springs of East Hampton, a hereditary fishing town and the birthplace of Abstract Expressionism. There, she was inspired by local painters Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning to invent a reductive approach to action painting, sanding down layers of paint on wood. She supported herself selling paintings directly out of her studio and exhibited often in the area.
In 2000, Owett moved to New York City, began renting a studio on Chrystie Street, and was given a solo show of her paintings at Roger Smith Gallery. Owett shifted back to photography while starting a family with her husband and two children. In 2006 on the beach in Shimoda, Japan, she began shooting momentary micro-fields of sand: in a way, a return to her method of action painting through erosion. In 2011, she had a solo show of her paintings at Splashlight Gallery, and another of her photographic Shimoda Prefecture series at the Muse Center of Photography and Moving Image. That show, “Landscape Inches Away,” was selected as a New York Magazine critic’s pick and was the subject of a critical essay by Paddy Johnson. The series was also published in site95 journal and Deep Sleep Magazine. Her new series Alchemy, photographs of gold ripples on Michigan's Crystal Lake, has appeared recently in “MINE: Take What's Yours” at Underline Gallery, as well as the Wall Street Journal.