Looking at nature, painting what she sees


Minneapolis-based artist Mary Bacon highlights local landscape  in her work, and has closely studied local flowers, trees, and parks. She is showing currently at Artacile Art Gallery in the Northrup King Building, in space #159.

Her artist statement: “In my paintings, I am idealizing the universal flower or leaf, seeing the leaf or flower as an icon, an object of contemplation and meditation. 

“Some of the flower paintings are designed using a circular mandala or labyrinth pattern, representing calm and wholeness for the psyche.

“The linear sections within some of these paintings are like the lines of a musical composition, or lines of poetry. I am telling my story line by line, a story of the beauty I saw in a particular place and time.”

Where are you from?

I have always lived in Minnesota, but these days I spend a lot of time in California. My heart lives with the ancient Redwood forests.

What is your career and art background?

I am a self-taught artist, and that took a lot of teaching, since I chose oil painting! There is a lot of technical knowledge needed to create a successful painting: what can you paint on, how do you prepare the surface before the paint goes on, how to mix colors together to get the shades you want, what brushes to use and what brushstrokes to use to get the effect you want. It can be a life long study – I’ve only just touched the surface of the subject. I’ve been painting now for about 15 years.

How does where you are from influence your work ?

I was very lucky to grow up in a rural area, with woods, creeks, wetlands, chokecherries and wild strawberries. Lucky, because I have always felt more at home in nature. People can be very bewildering to a sensitive empathic person such as myself, and nature is a peaceful place. And painting nature is a meditative refuge. So, the fact that our society makes people into commercial units – required to go out on your own to earn a living – forces a person to fit into a mold that does not necessarily suit them. We forget our dreams sometimes and don’t wake back up to the life our heart really desires, until some decades go by. That’s how it was for me. I was in my 40s, working for a furniture company as an interior designer, working regular hours, and one day I just knew I had to become a painter. I asked my boss if I could go part-time, so I could have time to learn to paint. She said no, so it dawned on me that I could open my own design firm, be independent, arrange my schedule my own way so that I would have time and energy left for learning art. I had an epic dream right after I quit: I was given the “Book of Art” from what some people call the “Akashic Hall of Records.” And I never looked back!

Was there a defining moment when in your life when you knew you wanted to be an artist?

The influence I’d like my art to have on people is for them to receive a calm and meditative feeling by looking at the art, or in being inspired into realizing that they express themselves through art, too. The creative ability is not reserved for only certain people. It just takes desire, and time.

Explain your technique/creative process. What motivates you to create ?

My creative process is to mostly look and look and look at nature, flowers, trees, colors. Capturing how a flower looks to me and what it means to me is a meditative process, sitting and the easel, drawing, mixing colors. Mostly I am listening to music like Estas Tonne, Piea, Anilah, or talks by Matt Kahn, Lee Harris, Eckhart Tolle while I work on a painting, and let the painting become a visible meditation.

What are your thoughts on Art Collecting and how do you cultivate a collector base?

The first thing about art collecting is that a new art collector, one who has never owned an original piece of art, is always amazed and surprised by how much life original art has, and how much it adds to their home. I know this through my experience with interior design, and with my own art collectors. Bringing art into someone’s home can be a big revelation to them. It’s important for me to keep showing my work in various places, to share my experience with art. I like being a part of the NE Minneapolis art scene.

You do a lot of series. explain the idea behind that…

My multiple series have been a result of really wanting to experiment. I like bold but nuanced colors, and I spend almost as much time mixing shades as I do painting. With the textured pieces I rely on the way the light catches the surface to add even more shades. And with the abstracts I can put the colors on in quick brushstrokes, and see how the colors react and play off each other. These things are much more controlled when I paint my large florals, so the new experiments can be exciting to me!

Do you ever have creative blocks? how do you overcome them ?

Blocks can come and go. They are usually solved by just sitting down and making myself open a few tubes of paint and start mixing something. I have so many concepts waiting in the wings for future paintings, so many that I will never be able to paint them all in my lifetime, so I have no problem there.

Who are some artists you admire, follow, or have been inspiration ?

Anyone can probably see my admiration and awe of Georgia O’Keeffe. When I was learning to paint, I spent time practicing copying her works (an honorable art student tradition). Cezanne and his lemons; Van Gogh and his olive trees; and writings on the Art Spirit by Robert Henri, Kandinsky, and C.G. Jung – especially Jung’s work on the meaning of the circular mandala to human nature.

How many hours go into an average piece? 

The paintings that take me the longest are the large florals. Between sketching, underpainting, mixing colors, and painting the layers, a 30” x 30” painting can take 40 hours.

Where do you see your art 10 years from now ?

I can see myself making larger and ever larger modern botanicals. More ocean themes. Some whales may be swimming my way!

Learn more at marybaconart.com. 


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