Meet Me in Midtown
Lynette (LH): Mary, where do you live now and where do you make your art?
Mary: Happily residing in Asheville, North Carolina where we managed to save our arts funding. Talk about forward thinking! My studio is right here, at our house in North Asheville. Quiet area with great physical beauty, the gorgeous mountains and our ever changing garden. I'm having my first organic growing experience. Worm wrangling is an interesting activity.
LH: Did you receive any formal art training? If yes where and what did you major in?
Mary: Oh yes, I've had so much formal training I could share credits and we could all have one degree or the other. Feel free to edit this list: I am an RN and an Ob/Gyn Nurse Practitioner, my practice was in the area of family planning and sex education for the masses. If you'd listen, I'd give the facts of life and how to prevent unplanned pregnancy speeches at the least provocation. I have a BS in Biology from Auburn and BFA-Painting from Georgia State University.
Sprigs and Bossoms
LH: Was there a certain point when you decided you were primarily an artist? At what point in your life did you become interested in making art?
Mary: Some of the turning points were quite acute; I'm not completely ready to share those in the public domain. Most importantly, my father was a very creative guy. He could design and build anything; I had the coolest play house on the block! We had an outdoor kitchen before it was "the" thing. As a young woman, I made things all the time, Barbie doll clothing, gift cards, small treasures and symbolic altars. About 20 years ago I started drawing and drawing and drawing, then I sought to learn how use oil paint and then I could not stop. The art making inside of me woke up one day and insisted on being heard and expressed.
LH: What is your media?
Mary: Most of my paintings are mixed media. I'm generally described as working in encaustic and it is my primary love. I manage to us oil stick, graphite, watercolor, raw pigment and paper in my work.
LH: Can you describe bit about your work in general.
Mary: The great bulk of my work is abstracted landscape. I love the outdoors, the light and the feel of air on my face. All these elements are expressed in my work. I dabble in other areas of abstraction, to me abstraction is one of the most interesting ways to express a thought.
LH: Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this?
Mary: Wow, I consider myself very, very lucky here. I don't have stuck periods. I however get restive from time to time because I have too many ideas and can't settle on one or two. It's hard to produce a piece of art if you can't keep the thoughts to a manageable billion or so. Sometimes, just to entertain myself, I make hats from paper bags.
LH: Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?
Mary: Why yes, I do. I am quite disciplined about my work. I get up do the usual morning stuff and go to work, I have lunch, I continue and end the day when I feel the work is at a stopping point. I guard my studio time; others tend to think we are playing in the studio and don't regard making art as work. Asheville has been a very positive change as art and its creation is considered valuable and important part of the community.
LH: What is your current work about?
Mary: There's always something new going on in my studio, I have 6 new pieces awaiting their trip to the photographer and I'm presenting an "Advanced Techniques" demonstration later this year and I need some examples to share. So, I'm working away on non Mary Farmer work to make these presentation pieces. It's been fun and I think the exercise may stimulate some new things in my work.
LH: Can you share with my readers a little about yourself? Where did you grow up and what (if any) were there any early influences on your work?
Mary: I grew up in San Diego Calif. My Southern mother wanted to return to Alabama which we did the year they integrated public schools. That was very confusing for me as I had never experienced any type of segregation. I simply did not understand the complexity and deep seated fear. Later, I moved to Atlanta as I needed more of what city life has to offer. In 2003, we moved to San Rafael, Calif and then in 2008 to Asheville. My husband and I both love to travel, good thing we two gypsy-souls met and married each other.
Mary Farmer's studio
LH: What is your workspace like?
Mary: My studio is our two car garage outfitted with windows and an exhaust system. This winter we added insulated doors as we had 39" of snow and remarkably long stretches of cold weather. Prior to moving to Asheville, -6 º was not in my vocabulary. Each day I tiptoe through the laundry room and end up in my studio.
Mary and her "bag" hats
LH: Describe how you work in your studio. How do you get "in a groove" and what inspires you?
Mary: The hardest part of finding my groove is when I first move into a studio, it takes me a good two weeks to be able to work successfully. I can't find things, the tables are set up differently, there are new ghosts to deal with; it's quite disorienting. As I push ahead all this stuff falls away and I am able to get on with my work. I think about my work all the time, the contemplative component is a very important part of my art making. I have to frequently riffle through my mental Rolodex to find the images I need for a particular piece.
LH: Do you have any web links/site/blog etc. you'd like to share that show your work? Any gallery representation/links where readers can see your work in person?
Mary: www.maryfarmer.com and my galleries are listed on the contact page
LH: What are you reading right now?
Mary: I read all the time. I've just finished "The Informers" by Juan Gabriel Vasquez, "Two Serious Women" by Jane Bowles and for mental relaxation I read Lee Child books.
Do you have other jobs other than making art?
Mary: No, I consider myself very fortunate to be able to concentrate on my art career. It's not a stable income type of profession and it can be quite uncertain and then, lo and behold you sell some work. Your hope is restored and you are ready to face the challenge all over again.
An unusual part of my job is working to ensure arts receive their full due. Forgive me, this is my soap box and I consider it very important that every artist know how important their contributions are to their community. The creative economy in North Carolina is $41 billion (not a typo, Billion) and we provide almost 300,000 jobs here. Now, that's impressive and the numbers don't lie. So artists, take up your banner and fight for your place at the economic table; without us, much is lost.
LH: Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?
Mary: In 5 years I'd like to still be creating art, selling art and enjoying the process. If the genie appeared and offered me 3 wishes they'd be: personal economic security, world peace and freedom for the genie.
LH: Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention?
Mary: Yes, thanks for asking. I have a show in Birmingham AL, opens Sept 3, 2010 at Clay Scot Artworks. Sales from this show will benefit Triumph Services, an organization that provides community based support to individuals with developmental disabilities who are trying to live independently. I'll be showing at the Andrews Art Museum, in Andrews, NC. The date for that show has not been set but, it will probably be early next year. And I'm represented by two galleries that don't do "featured artist" shows so the work is always up at Artizen Fine Arts, http://www.artizenfinearts.com/, in Dallas, TX and Gallery Minerva, here in Asheville, NC.