Panel Presentation Volland Store, 2020

Questions from Saralyn Reece Hardy, Marilyn Stokstad Director, Spencer Museum, Lawrence KS

1. Could you please share something about what we are seeing in a particular work in the gallery that had an element of surprise for you in the process of making? Creating art is not formulaic and therefore the constant attentiveness and openness of the artist often can open unexpected doors of understanding that show up in the work. Could you please bring us into one of those moments?

Mary Kay: In these three paintings I have deliberately and for the first time, inserted passages of pattern and motifs that originate from India and China.

For a long time, I have been interested in an eclectic depiction of plants, especially those found in decorative objects, textiles, and carpets from Ancient Turkey, Persia, India, China, and Japan. Because of this abiding interest, the insertion of these elements is not a surprise.

The surprise is that the painting of these passages has somehow enabled me to look at the natural world and my own gardens with a different set of eyes.

An expanded seeing has happened, where recognizing and locating similarities and differences; rhymes, connections within the natural world have unfolded.

So, these centuries-old works, have given me pause: A humbling realization of the acuity, understanding, and deep love these ancient cultures brought to their participation with the natural world. I have been given something far larger to add to my own observations.

2. In almost every case, although not all, you have brought us work that is active in the world. It hinges to your personal concerns without being didactic or closed. I think that being an artist is a way of contributing to society, dedicating oneself to expanding an expressive vocabulary in order to touch people and to respect subjects. What do you hope that your work can offer to others?

Mary Kay: I would like my audience to experience and reconsider beauty and the ecstatic; and to recognize how essential these are to our being human.

So, I hope that by juxtaposing different forms of representation of the natural world, I can construct a rich and compelling set of sensate experiences all embodied in languages of color and paint. Through a kind of visual seduction, I want to rekindle people’s essential relationship with and responsibility to the plant world.

Might this help to counter our present cultural detachment from Nature I am unsure? But the non- hierarchical insertion and celebration of botanical imagery from other cultures gives me some kind of hope; a conversation across time and continents and cultures.

3. What do you need your work to do for your own discovery process?

Mary Kay: I need the work process to always present the seemingly insolvable. To ask the question, what if I try that, can I, should I try that? And then most likely at that point the work will visually fall apart. That moment is the most exciting. Then arrives the question of how far can it fall, and also how can I still hold it together so it speaks.