We had the good fortune of connecting with Mary Jean Davis and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Mary Jean, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?

I grew up in an age where women were just beginning to work outside the home, artists were bums unless they were from Italy or France and if you did art, it was just a hobby. My father was a very hard working man whose biggest concern for my siblings and me was being able to support ourselves. With all of that being said, it has been difficult overcoming the stigma of actually feeling comfortable calling myself, “an artist.” I felt I had to live in New York City or California and I was embarrassed to say “I am an artist!” Sometimes, I catch myself still saying, “I am a retired teacher”.

Questions from students and peers where I taught often were geared to, “How much is it?” or “How long did that take you to do that?” I still think many people do not have the understanding that true artist just need to create no matter how much it cost or how long it takes. Being in art fairs, peddling my art often led to me creating things that I thought people would buy in order to validate my work. Struggling with that still, but fortunately I am retired and have some income to fall back on. It is nice to sell my art, but I am finding the true joy is just creating.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

This is a difficult question in the world of branding. I do not feel I really have a brand. I think my art is evolving constantly due to my experience which continuously evolve. My biggest challenge other than dedicating the time to create is to not fall into the trap of trying to make everyone happy. That statement in itself is awkward because sometimes my greatest thrills may be when someone likes my art. I love creating works by trying to design a painting as realistically as possible. I also love the provocation of trying to create a sense of place and sometimes those two processes do not agree with each other. The real obstacle is not becoming too comfortable.

It’s in my blood, I can not help it! I have always wanted to re-create the beauty around me, even if it was something as simple as a feather in a parking lot or a mountain in the Grand Tetons. I know, there is no creator like God but acknowledging the gifts I have been given is essential to me. After retiring from the Texas Public School System, I have discovered my opportunity to create again. Finding joy in the expression of an old soul, A young child or the way the light bounces off glass and items I have collected from the past, I am constantly vigilant of emotions provoked by my surroundings. Being able to express these glimpses of life has been a desire and a goal.

I have had over thirty years teaching experience in the public schools and have taught private lessons in my home, at Longview Museum of Fine Arts and the Marshall Visual Arts Center. I also give workshops in drawing skills and pastels. Working primarily in soft pastels, I have had my work accepted in National and International shows from Cape Cod, MA., New York City, Sedona, AZ., Texas, to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana and earned my BFA in Art Education with Cum Laude honors at Louisiana Tech University. Retired from public school teaching, I currently live in Texas, but I love to travel and am constantly learning. Carrie Ellen Montgomery, my great grandmother, studied under Grant Wood while she attended the Stone City Art Colony in Chicago, Ill. My gifts’ as an artist have often been attributed to her.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?

One of my favorite places to visit in East Texas is Caddo Lake. Uncertain, Texas is a mystical place where time slows down as one enters through turtle and alligator crossings, Spanish moss hanging from Bald Cypress trees that are older than dirt, while on narrow gravel roads with water encroaching on both sides. The people are warm but guarded against anyone who wants to come and make changes to their nurturing abode. The seriousness exhibited in most is making sure they are out on the lake in time to catch the biggest fish, canoe through the swamps or just sit on one of the many piers to catch a sunset while listening to birds and sipping a cool drink. Dottie Carter, owner of Spatterdock Cabin Rentals will set you up in one of her whimsical cabins where the experience will be unforgettable. Each of her cabins has a unique theme and a touch of her eclectic mosaics, furniture, docks, trails and piers that will take you into a truly transcendental walk among the giant Cypress trees and Spanish moss. The ethereal beauty is enhanced if you happen to be visiting on a foggy evening and the water lilies are blooming.

The second place I would take a visitor is to Jefferson, Texas. If time allowed we would also visit one of the wineries in the area. Summer does not pass without a trip to Pittsburg, Texas to buy Efurd peaches, eat homemade ice cream and maybe come back through Gladewater to antique shop and visit Stephanie Chance at Decorate Ornate.

While in Longview, Texas, I would definitely take a visitor to the Longview Museum of Fine Arts, the Longview Arboretum and some of the many trails the city has created for enjoyment.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?

I am over the curve in life, (I dare not say hill), no longer young but certainly not old. That being said, there are numerous people who have influenced and are still influencing me. It is difficult to name just one or two. As a Christian I give God all of the credit for leading me in directions I never would have dreamed. There are students who I taught who had profound statements and insights which ultimately changed my point of view of looking at things. Other key people, friends, artists, relatives and teachers who have taught, encouraged and fed my soul have been instrumental as well. My great grandmother, Carrie Elizabeth Atwood Montgomery has been given much credit for my ‘natural talent.’ Although I personally feel I have had to work to develop my skill.

Cindy Long is a life long friend and artist who is an excellent western graphite artist. She was probably most influential to me in my younger years as we were in high school art classes together and were roommates in college. She demonstrated a great work ethic and love for developing her skills which ultimately rubbed off on me. Her work continues to be an inspiration.

The one constant and most influential person though would have to be my husband, Brice J. Davis. He has lovingly encouraged me and has reluctantly but willingly allowed me most of our house to use as my studio. As an architect he is a great critic who I seek final approval when I think I have finished a piece of art. His keen visual sense of esthetics, composition and perspective will zero on any problem area I may be experiencing and he will help me with unresolved issues with quick and accurate observations.

Most recently my inspiration has been coming from Jackie Shepherd, co-owner of T-D Architects. She has been sharing her visions of interior spaces as she designs for clients and has allowed me to create and paint large acrylic abstract paintings to accommodate her concepts. My experimental pieces are a combination of life experiences along with fun whimsical and somewhat realistic subject matter.


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mjdartstudio/

Image Credits
Barbara Tyler

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