Collection: Mary Gilkerson

Paintings by Mary Gilkerson offer a look at abstract representational scenes created with rich oil paints. 

Artist Biography:

"Although I’ve lived in many places as distant apart as the UK and New York, the Deep South is home. I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina when it was a small city with the woods and creeks never far away. Spending summers on the South Carolina coast, on Edisto Island was magical. The island was pretty undeveloped, so without TV we entertained ourselves exploring the beach and marshes.

That connection to place is still a crucial part of my work. Sometimes that sense of place expands to include people, but it usually focuses on the landscape, on the way that light reveals the place, and how light and color can evoke experience.

I consider myself an abstract representational painter. Meaning I’m not a hyper-realist. I don’t see myself in competition with the camera. I’m far more interested in making a painting that evokes a memory of a similar experience in the viewer.

I’ve been painting most of my life. In fact it’s one of the earliest things I remember doing – drawing and painting on the kitchen floor as my mother cooked dinner. So studying drawing and painting in college seemed like the natural thing to do.

After getting my BFA from the University of South Carolina I did what so many young artists do…headed to New York. Where my thin Southern blood promptly froze.

After a couple of years of literal chilling, I came back South and finished my MFA so that I could pursue my other passion – teaching. When I finished my degree I was lucky enough to get a full-time job teaching at a small liberal arts college for women, Columbia College. I loved working with young women, empowering them to find their own voices and to make a difference in the world.

Teaching for 26 years also gave me the time and space to develop me work with support from the college through faculty development grants as well as from the South Carolina Arts Commission and the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties. One of my favorite experiences was serving as artist-in-residence at the Congaree National Park. They even let me paint on their walls!

In the spring of 2016 I was able to leave Columbia College to work as a full-time artist, a long-time dream. I continue my regular painting projects, including my (almost) daily painting, print monotypes on my small press, and teach my own series of workshops and online courses that help people make their own paintings come alive and bring balance to their creative careers."

Mary Gilkerson