Marlene was born in Alice Springs. Her mother’s country is Hermannsburg (Ntaria), west of Alice Springs. Marlene grew up at Amoonguna community, east of Alice Springs, where she went to school. Marlene is sister to the important watercolour artist Mervyn Rubuntja. Marlene learnt to sew at Yirara College, Alice Springs, however she only began making soft sculptures at Yarrenyty Arltere in 2009. She says she draws inspiration for her soft sculptures from what she sees around her in her daily life at Yarrenyty Arltere Town Camp; “some things are good for people and other things make people really mad”. She also draws inspiration from her husband’s country at Wave Hill. Marlene is interested in telling proudly the stories of her ancestors; her art is helping her to do this.
Marlene is an artist with Yarrenyty Arltere Artists, a Western Arrernte community arts enterprise. It is part of the Yarrenyty Arltere Learning Centre; an intergenerational program that began in 2000 as a response to the chronic social distress faced by families. It has helped people to rebuild lives. The art centre has been at the heart of this healing. It is an Indigenous owned and managed organisation. Profits from sales go to the artists and towards the purchase of materials.