Mary is an artist and educator based in Richmond, VA — and a long-time friend of Handyma'am Goods. She is passionate about supporting her local community and has spent the past few years working with several galleries and art-based nonprofits in town. Mary's currently working on a handful of papier-mâché mobiles and raffling them off to raise money for local & national mutual aid organizations. We got to stop by her makeshift studio shop and snap some photos of her incredible creations (from a safe social distance!) and learn a little more about her story. Check out our interview with her below!
Where are you from? Where are you now and how did you end up there?
I was born on the Mississippi bayou — okay not really a bayou, but “bayou” has a better ring to it than “Gulfort, Mississippi.” I was raised in Virginia Beach, and then moved to Richmond to attend VCU. Throughout the years, I’ve worked as a program leader with Art180, teacher in El Salvador, Make Space mentor, Gallery Director at Quirk Gallery, and — until most recently — Assistant Director at Studio Two Three. With every career step I’ve taken, I’ve kept my focus on the arts and my local community...which brings me to where I am right now: in my laundry room/temporary studio making art.
"Sassy, bougie, ratchet' — well, maybe not the ratchet part, but I would definitely describe my style as sassy and bougie with a side order of wonky and a whole lot of color."
How would you describe your style and who or what has influenced it?
“Sassy, bougie, ratchet” — well, maybe not the ratchet part, but I would definitely describe my style as sassy and bougie with a side order of wonky and a whole lot of color.
From the time I was 6 to about 12 years old, I insisted on only renting two movies from our neighborhood Blockbuster: The Last Unicorn and Rocky Horror Picture Show. So that might explain a lot. Throw in some Pee Wee’s Playhouse with Rocko’s Modern Life and you’ll get the hodge-podge of visuals that informed my childhood.
I am really inspired and influenced by the work of Peggy Noland, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Sally Mann, Gordon Parks, William Eggleston, Misaki Kawai, Lakwena — there are so many I could go on foreverrrrr.
Tell us about your different mediums and how you got started with papier-mâché?
The main mediums I work in are printmaking, tufting, papier-mâché, and illustration. Papier-mâché was a recent addition to the list, and was born out of a need to make something without having the space I needed. I was unsure about how I could help the BLM movement, but I figured I could make something to raffle off and give the proceeds to an organization that supports our community. So I looked at our little laundry room, made some space, and got to work.
Tell us about Sometimes Gallery. How did it start and how has it shifted?
Sometimes Gallery started as a way for me to give artists whose work I respect a space to exhibit the work they want to show. It’s similar to an artist-run gallery, where their art is free to be and explore without limitations. Earlier this year, I signed a lease on a space for Sometimes Gallery to grow into, but I had to let it go because of COVID. As sad as I was to let that lease go, I am excited to see what will happen in the future. Ultimately, I want Sometimes Gallery to be a place where people feel comfortable bringing their friends and staying awhile.
What projects are you working on currently? Do you have a goal or dream project?
Currently, I’m working on small papier-mâché sculptures and mobiles to sell. It's been awesome, and I’ve had even more commissions come through since my last mobile raffle. It feels good to make things that people like and want while helping out a good cause at the same time. For now, I’m making and drawing which are my favorite parts of the process.
As for a dream project, I’ve always wanted to turn my illustrations into fabrics. I’d love to create everyday objects that are beautiful and handy — or maybe not so handy — and just fun to look at. I mean, what IS art?
How has this crazy year affected or influenced your work?
This year has had a lot of downs and not so many ups, but it has provided me a new lens that’s impossible to ignore. It’s given me the courage and the drive to fight for people — to be louder. It’s helped me understand that protesting happens in many different forms and that we always need to stand up for what is right. I’m not a religious person, but I always refer back to the old adage: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Man, I tell you what, I would want someone fighting for me if I were facing injustices. I keep hearing people say, “2020 sucks,” and, yeah, it does suck to watch people blatantly being oppressed. And it’s going to keep sucking if we don’t take action.
"This year has had a lot of downs and not so many ups, but it has provided me a new lens that’s impossible to ignore."
Anything else you want to tell us about?
I’m keeping hope alive in my heart that we will all come out of this as stronger, wiser humans who can see the value in an individual person no matter their sexual orientation, skin color, or religion. I hope we can judge people on the way they treat others. But it’s going to take a lot for us to get there and I’m just hoping we can all do it together.