For Mary Lester, painting is a cosmic journey driven by the longing for a place that feels like home, a place she can’t quite remember and can’t exactly forget, but when she finds just the right composition, the exact color, or the precise shape, she just knows. She can feel it, like the piece of a puzzle that you twist and turn until you finally find where it belongs in the big picture.
Mary discovered her form of artistic expression in preschool when she was first introduced to painting. She went on to formally study art at Augusta State College, Georgia Southern, and Ringling School of Art and Design. She also studied privately under Louise Shipps and Jack Bailey, who won the prestigious Prix de Rome award four consecutive years.
For years Mary found success by painting commissioned portraits. Although she was good at it, she might have been a little too good. Painting people as they appear isn’t always what they want to see. Many people would have preferred a more idealized version of themselves, which was a lot of pressure and not much fun.
Preferring that painting be joyful and imaginative, Mary decided to try something different and began painting a woman wearing a mask. That night in a dream, the subject of her painting came to Mary and told her to paint her with red hair, and to get rid of the mask, guiding her through the painting process until it was right. Once she finished that painting, there was a backlog of people in Mary’s dreams begging her to paint them next.
Mary also finds inspiration for her paintings through meditating and taking Shamanic journeys. She has an imaginative style that is all her own, incorporating vivid colors and wild patterns that are fanciful and playful.
This month’s cover art is entitled “HOME Remembers Us.” In the painting, the inner tube, which is depicted in many of Mary’s paintings, represents the pranic tube, an invisible tube running from the top of the head, through the center of the body carrying the life force. Using meditation, Mary has learned how to travel inside herself to that “inner tube,” discovering who she really is and taking that temporary journey home. The painting, being both literal and figurative is a play on words, as a woman in her “inner tube” goes on a cosmic journey with her best companion, her dog, to where she discovers that place called HOME. Even though she can’t exactly remember this place, HOME remembers her.
Mary loves to paint women floating around in inner tubes through outer space. Her whimsical paintings depict the feeling people have when they become aware they long for something more and begin searching within themselves on a journey of self-discovery. There is a piece of Mary in each of the women she paints. “The place that I go to, that’s me.”
You can discover Mary’s magical, mystical paintings at: The Pluff Mudd Gallery in Old Town Bluffton. 843.757.5590 www.pluffmuddart.com, and also at the Artist League of Hilton Head 843.681.5060 www.artleaguehhi.org.