Tell us about your experience studying visual art at RMIT as a mature age student?
I think being older made some things much easier for me (I was 65 when I began). I had been looking at art for at least forty years longer than most of my fellow students and was able to distill what I had learned, even though my technical skills were limited. Most of them were far more skilled than I was.
Your repertoire of artworks shows off numerous skills ranging from moulding latex to embroidery. With which medium do you feel most comfortable?
I find that quite a hard question to answer. It depends on what I have been doing most recently. Most recently I have been doing a lot of hand stitching and that is something I enjoy doing and which I find can say things I want to say. Having said that, when I was doing a lot of painting I couldn't imagine not wanting to paint all the time because it is so meditative. I have also done quite a lot of work sculpting in paper and wire, and while that can be very rewarding it doesn't give me the same sense of timelessness that painting and stitching do.
The question asked about most comfortable… often I feel quite terrified before I begin any new project. I want to do it but I don't know what will happen, where I will go and what I will discover.
You fervently collect stories and singular characters. What are your favourite stories from your childhood?
I think I like stories of things I did with friends most. I had two best friends, Jane and Margaret and we had great adventures together. Their mother would encourage us to go exploring the suburbs around us. (we lived in Sydney). We would pack a lunch and off we would go. One of our favourite places was Vaucluse House a National Trust house,nearish to where we lived. The rooms were all furnished as they would have been a hundred years ago and we would walk around it, imagining we lived there. Another favourite place was a huge park nearby called Cooper Park. It was a fairly wild place and I remember one time there was a creepy man there, but there was solidarity in numbers and we avoided him. There was a rubbish dump at one end of the park, I can still remember how it smelt. It must have been where they sorted paper and dumped it .We loved sifting through it and finding exercise books and diaries and reading them to one another. We were allowed a lot of freedom, and I know it was enriching for me.
Playback theatre has played such a significant part in your life. How has it influenced your art practice?
Probably the most important thing to come from Playback Theatre is learning to trust what comes to mind, not censoring and looking for the next thing. I learned through Playback Theatre to find what was the essence of the story and this was an enormous help in knowing when I had done enough and to have a sense of balance in where things needed to be placed. This is true for abstract work as well as figurative work. When you are enacting a story you need to develop a sense of where to put the emphasis, what must be included and what discarded.
Mary’s exhibition All Stitched Up will showcase a range of stitched artwork. At Pop Craft Studio from the 21st to the 4th of December. The studio will be open on weekends from 10-5 pm and by appointment during the week.
All photos courtesy of Heartland.