Featured Artist for February
Watercolorist Mary Monroe is the featured front window artists at the Corner Gallery for the month of February. When asked how she ended up agreeing to take on this considerable challenge, Mary laughed out loud and declared, "It didn't take much!" She continued, "The real challenge is to pick out which paintings to display."
Having more than enough art on the heels of losing all of it in the 2017 Redwood Valley fire is quite a story in itself. Mary reflects, "Hundreds of paintings were burned up. I was left with nothing." In addition to her paintings, all of her family photos and her treasured collection of slides from her long-ago stint in the International School of Lusaka in Zambia were consumed by the flames.
"Losing the African slides is actually what inspired me to start painting again," Mary elaborates. "It was actually harder losing those slides than having my paintings burn up. All I could do to recapture those precious memories was to try to paint them from images that I could conjure up in my mind."
"Lots of people, my artist friends from the Mendocino County Art Association, gave me paper, paints and a palate to help me get started," Mary continues. "One of the first things I bought for myself was a sketchbook, and I haven't looked back."
This show of 100% new work does not have an obvious theme, though Mary did wonder aloud if there might be something lurking unrecognized under the surface. The pieces are all watercolors, some featuring water scenes, but most are botanical studies. Mary has always enjoyed doing botanicals the most, and after the fire it is a healing experience to do what she has always loved to do.
There is one major change in Mary's art since the fire, however. Her new focus is on trying to loosen up and play more. "I am trying to quit worrying so much about being exact," she explains. "It's way more healing that way, and a lot more fun." True to her commitment to let go of the details and delve more deeply into the process, Mary smiles that she now has a large tub full of rejects, which is something she never would have allowed to happen pre-fire. She reiterates, "Yes, I guess the process has truly become more important than the end result. I can now lose myself in my painting and forget about all of my worries."
Mary is now contemplating some bold changes in her watercolor technique, including mounting her paper on wood panels and working on large rolls of high quality watercolor paper. She admits that she hasn't taken the dive yet, but these ideas and others are actively fermenting in her mind. One thing that she knows for sure though is that "Art will definitely continue to be an important aspect of my life."
The First Friday opening of Mary Monroe's art show is on February 4 from 5-8pm, at the Corner Gallery, located at 201 S State St in Ukiah. Live music will be provided by Pierre Archain. All county protocols regarding COVID will be observed, including required masking and social distancing.