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Mary E. Carter
With my hand painted one-of-a-kind furniture I hope to revive the dedicated craft of the single artisan who lovingly creates one piece at a time, taking it from start to finish. I recreate old world techniques of enameling, japanning, and lacquering, updating them by using contemporary nontoxic acrylic mediums. Most of the time I seek out old, battered pieces of furniture to recycle, giving them new life and beauty.
All of my images are my own; I use no stencils and do not copy any other images. I do all my own work from sanding and repairing my furniture finds, to applying the undercoats, to distressing the surfaces, to painting the images, stroke by stroke. I use no production line help or outside assistance.
The subject matter for my images derives from mythological themes. I am particularly interested in the history and social structures of Neolithic cultures dating from approximately 6500 to 2500 B.C. Evidence of a Goddess-centered agricultural life at that time informs some of my aesthetic. But long before I began to study this period of history in any kind of rational way, I had already begun to paint archetypal images that related to that world view. In 1997 I had started painting bird/woman figures, eggs, suns, moons, sprouting plants and compositions of whirling forms with no knowledge that there had been a distant and lost culture that also used these forms. It was not until a friend of mine pointed out my possible aesthetic forebears that I began to look into this more seriously. In Marija Gimbutas’ The Language of the Goddess I learned that:
“The main theme of Goddess symbolism is the mystery of birth and death and the renewal of life, not only human but all life on earth and indeed in the whole cosmos. Symbols and images cluster around the parthenogenetic (self-generating) Goddess and her basic functions as Giver of Life, Wielder of Death, and, not less importantly, as Regeneratrix…In art this is manifested by the signs of dynamic motion: whirling and twisting spirals, winding and coiling snakes, circles, crescents, horns, sprouting seeds and shoots. The snake was a symbol of life energy and regeneration…Even the colors had a different meaning than in the Indo-European symbolic system. Black did not mean death or the underworld; it was the color of fertility, the color of…rich soil…” —Marija Gimbutas
Every table, chair, or cabinet that I paint is a jewel, truly an heirloom quality object. It is a long, slow, deliberate process. No two pieces are alike and each one holds traces of the hands, mind and heart of the artist who created it.
Pentimento n. The emergence of earlier images, forms or strokes that have been changed and painted over.
When looking at my work, viewers may detect imperfections, scratches or marks on the surfaces of the wood furniture showing through my new finishes and painted images. While I repair large gouges or broken pieces of the superstructure of the recycled furniture I select, in the case of small imperfections, I leave them as they are. These are the signs of life, the etched marks of the human history of each piece of furniture I work on. To make the surfaces look “too perfect” would be to lose the soul of the piece and so I leave them in tact to tell their stories.
The name of my business comes from something my grandmother would say to me when I was a little girl. As I snuggled on her lap with my head on her shoulder she would put on her half frame glasses and slowly and lovingly scrutinize my little hands, front and back. Then she would say to me, “Mary, you have the hands of an artist.”
To see more of my work, please visit handsofanartist.com
Mary E. Carter
Studio open by appointment:
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