Dabney Mahanes says, “I didn’t become a serious artist until my mid 50s.” Truth be told, she was a serious artist from childhood, it’s just the opportunity to fully focus on her talents didn’t present itself until later in life. She had a double dose of creativity from early on, majoring in graphic design and fashion illustration at college to divert her from her dream of being a dancer. Taking hints from society, she tried to persuade her artisanship into a practical package, which would come with the chance of a “real” career and steady salary.
She worked as an illustrator for McGraw Hill after college. Then she fell in love, married and became a full-time mother. Like so many women, who dedicate their hearts to family, Dabney’s opportunity to be a full-time artist took a pleasant detour. Even so, her creativity showed up in many ways, such as taking and teaching art classes, choreographing high school musicals and painting murals. However, when she found herself facing major mid-life changes, during what she calls a “dark period”, she was faced with the question of what to do with the rest of her life. She was unsure of who she had become and where she was going, but she knew art had to be part of wherever she landed.
She moved to Greenville, SC, from the small town of Easley, where she raised her children and became a part of the fabric of the community. One of her first steps forward was immersing herself into the artists’ world, aligning with like-minded people. She began a course called “The Artist’s Way.” In the course, she had to list 10 things she wanted to do with her life. “I put in ‘I want to be a serious artist’ as one of them.”
They say when you send your intentions into the world things begin to fall into place. “Many synchronicities started happening.” She found a studio in an old mill with rent she could afford. She began auditing art classes at Clemson and Furman Universities, and practically had an elite, expensive art easel fall into her lap. An art professor at Clemson fell ill with Alzheimer’s, and his wife was selling his state-of-the-art easel for an unbelievable bargain. Dabney was amazed at the serendipity of this prized-possession coming into her life and how it was a catalyst to getting her art career underway. “It seemed like a gift. For me, finding this easel was huge. It was a sign I was doing the right thing. It has become the foundation of my work.”
In 1999, Dabney had her first exhibit in her rented studio. The show was almost a sell out, and it was that warm reception that made her confident in her path, “This is it. I’m going to do it.” Much of her journey of being lost and finding herself is chronicled in her work. “I like to tell a story filled with emotion in my paintings. I love drama, acting, dancing and it all shows through on the canvas.”
Dabney painted this month’s cover, entitled “Woman by the Window II” in a group setting with a live model. It was her imagination that placed the subject gazing out a window. “I painted a warm sky. I envisioned her thinking something beautiful. She is filled with emotion, contemplation and dreams.” This piece was purchased as a part of the University of South Carolina Medical School’s art collection.
After renting a space for eight years, Dabney’ now works in a little mill house studio she bought in the heart of Greenville’s art district. She opens her artist doors each November for the Open Studios Weekend hosted by Greenville’s Metropolitan Arts Council. She is a favorite on the tour. “Our goal as artists is to demonstrate the creative process and educate the public of the rewards of owning original art.”
To see more of Dabney’s work, or purchase her work, log onto www.dabneymahanesart.com. When you’re in Greenville, SC, be sure to discover the Art District of West Greenville, and stop by to visit Dabney. Her studio is located at 5 Smith Street, Greenville, SC, 29611. Telephone: 864-915-4137.