For PDX’s first exhibition at “PDX ACROSS THE HALL”, we will show paintings and drawings (drawings, first time exhibited) by Northwest artist, Mary Henry. Henry’s compositions are pulled from her observations of the living world; travels abroad, life on the West Coast, architecture and landscape. Though the origin of the work is personal in nature, she is rigorous in her application of geometric rationality, and makes no concessions to sentimentality. While her use of color is bright and bold, her application is even-handed and rational.
In 1938 Henry received her BFA and classical arts education from California College of Arts and Crafts. After graduating she found work as a painter for the WPA and draftsperson for Hewlett-Packard. Studying under László Moholy-Nagy at the Institute of Design in Chicago, Henry received her MA in 1946. Her work is included in the collection of the Seattle Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Portland Art Museum, Microsoft, Institute of Design in Chicago, and Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art. She currently lives on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound. At 96 years old, she is no longer making art.
Art holds a unique place in our lives. It doesn’t offer food or shelter to maintain our continued good health. We could survive without it, and yet, how barren our existence would be without that particular dimension that only art can bring. Moholy-Nagy has said in his book Vision in Motion that “art is the most complex, vitalizing, and civilizing of human actions.” Even more than that, it is one of the basic necessities of life.
Art is communication between people at the highest level, and it is one of the most meaningful way that humans use to convey their deepest, most mysterious emotions. It sustains us when the chaos of the world wit h its wars and depressions engulfs us. It is the bright hope of humanity to know that event in the midst of such hopelessness, we can do create art that can lift and inspire.
For, me abstract art can best portray thoughts that lie deepest in our psyche. This is art of the mind, art of the inner eye. The world is a chaotic visual feast. Yet as I matured and became more thoughtful about what I was doing, I began to perceive the geometry of life, from its infinitesimally small parts to the structure of the universe. I began to try to capture the way I felt about this universe to which I belonged, and to see the images of my mind made real. In my paintings I wanted clarity and order, and so I constructed them as I would a piece of architecture. “Perfection of structure” might well be the words i work by. Though I have been searching for many years, I Beebe that I have not yet found the way that leads to the perfect picture, which, after all, may be impossible. But of course it is the search, not the finding that is important, and hat is what keeps me going.
I’ve never paid attention to art trends, though Op Art influenced my early paintings. i found my way of working long ago and I stay with it, working to push my boundaries further and further out. Often I return to ideas to I’ve had as long as twenty years, and because my thinking about art has been consistent, there is a continuity throughout my long years to painting.
I am not interested in portraying life as such, but I am interested in portraying ideas and emotions. What I would like most of all to be able to do would be to find in my painting the connection of humanity to the universe-- a truly symbolic relationship made visible. This is, I believe, my concept of the spirituality of my painting. I continue with non-objective work using geometric shapes. I believe it is the way that best expresses what i feel and what I think is the deepest, most significant art form now and for the future. I believe that it is not necessarily a good thing to be constantly trying to be “new”; beauty is what we should be looking for.
I go on trying to find the answer to everyone’s question-- why am I here? What is my purpose? Because I am a painter, the answer is obvious to me. I paint for clarity and order of vision, eliminating non-essentials, distilling the painting until its beauty of form, its contemplative spaces speak to the viewer with energy and insight. I want my painting to transcend the ordinary in an elevation of the senses, to give a feeling of joy and surprise to the eye. If I could physically manage to paint even larger pictures I would, but I make diptychs and triptychs and so create large paintings that way. I want my work to have a life of its own, so that when one of my paintings goes out into the world, it can establish itself with no further help from me.