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Mary Ellen McNaughton exhibits at DCM

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Long-time local Artist, Mary Ellen McNaughton shows variety and beauty in her show "Visionary Odyssey." at Dominican Center Gallery.
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The Dominican Center Marywood Gallery is a space reserved by Dominican Center for the purpose of exhibiting art created by West Michigan Artists. Dominican Center appreciates and supports the Arts and desires to empower local artists in their creative works. The gallery is located in the Ground Floor Main Lobby of Dominican Center at Marywood.

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Dove Descending

Dove Descending /Mary Ellen McNaughton

Grand Rabbit

Grand Rabbit /Mary Ellen McNaughton

Enjoy seeing a retrospective of artwork by artist Mary Ellen McNaughton.  A lifetime of creative expression, this show features lively, colorful and often whimsical drawings, paintings, mosaics and sculptures.  Inspired by mythology, nature, folk art, and other artists through time, Mary Ellen lives here in Grand Rapids. When not doing art, she enjoys her organic garden, reading and walking her dog, Lorca.  Art, Spirituality and Nature – these are her passions. Find them in this exhibit! Most of the 34 works are available for purchase through the Dominican Center front desk.

Mary Ellen was borh in Murnberg, Germany, on October 14, 1952. She resided in several countries in her youth: Frankfort,  Moscow, Zagreb, Vienna and Versouix. An ameteur naturalist and organic gardener, she is the mother of Mary and Seth. She is deeply interested in ancient and contemporary folk arts, religions and cultures.  Since 1981, her focus has been on clay, primarily low-fired, brightly glazed hand built sculptu8re with ongoing experiments in primitive and raku firing, mosaics and mixed media work.  She has many painting and mixed media under way that are the result of a desire to express inner visions and symbolic, archetypal images.

McNaughton earned her Bachelor of Philosophy at Thomas Jefferson College; teacher certificate with an Art major and Biology Minor at Aquinas College. She also attended Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. She has presented at least nine solo exhibitions; and she has been a part of more than 35 group exibitions throughout Michigan and Illinois. In her own words, her journey, below, is sure to inspire the dreamer and artist in all of us (as Diana Nyad said today when she finished her swim from Cuba to Florida) ". . .never give up . . .follow your dreams.)

Visionary Odyssey

If making art makes an artist, then an artistic journey is documented by the works of Mary Ellen McNaughton from the time she was little until the present. She remembers the thrill on a sunny afternoon picking up a pencil as a toddler and drawing “chickens” which looked more like chicken scratch.

At five, she recalls declaring to herself the wish to become an artist when grown up.  Alone in her room she would play with modeling clay, rolling it into many shapes. Being in Germany exposed her to many wonderful sights and impressions as all the different countries she lived in, especially taken with bright and colorful folk arts.

When eight years old, living in Moscow, USSR, she would return home from school and pratice drawing; making pictures and small paper dolls. Her diplomat father asked to put up her colored drawings of fantastic monsters for a party he hosted in the next door vacated apartment: this was her first exhibit!

Art continued to be a dedicated hobby throughout childhood and her parents were happy that Mary Ellen could so readily and happily occupy herself. Little did they know how she was preparing herself for a lifetime of creativity. Visiting in Washington, D.C., she went with her childhood friend across the alley into a magical potter's studio where students were working on their own projects. She made a small seal which unfortunately exploded when fired! Little did she know how that memory would inspire her years later.

As a young teenager in Zagreb (former Yugoslavia) she spend hours drawing, painting and sculpting in paper mache.  Visits to the zoo were opportunities to sketch and, she once joined adult artists for a plein aire (in the open air) painting session out in the countryside, which was delightful.

Back in the U.S., she sold her first work at seventeen in an inclusive ehibit at the Department of State, Washington, D.C., before heading off to college.  She struggled to follow directions of her art professsor, and with a sense of general disillunionment, left for an alternative school--Thomas Jefferson College, here in West Michigan, where experimentation and self-direction was encouraged.

She continued to paint, mostly images that pertained to the nebulous, to spiritual visions, only to become the collector of her own works.  Diverging from painting, she felt drawn to creating in three dimensions in clay and so signed up for an adult ceramics class. She flourished under the instruction of June Gorman, becoming her assistant to load the kiln.  Even though her first work exploded (again!), she eagerly learned from her mistakes and successes. Those first creations found their way to the John Ball Park Art Fair and sold (but not the paintings). Soon she borrowed a glass blower's kiln and set up a studio in her home.  More classes followed, an adult pottery class and one at GRCC, but her true direction was handbuilding: coil, slab and pinchpot!

Her clay sculptures continued to evolve and began to receive awards in competitions That is how Bergsma Gallery decided to represent her.  One thing led to another as is the way of life; and after a stint working for the Race Street Gallery, she was invited by Ron Pedersen to teach at Aquinas College where she had been a student. For five engaging years, Mary Ellen was the ceramics instructor, teaching and creating on that beautiful campus.

The next adventure was renting a storefront on Michigan Street to show and sell art in the "public eye," where being both a creator and a seller was often demanding with many rewards and remarkable experiences, ending when the building went up for sale seven years later.  During this era, many clay children came out of her hands, including wedding cake tops, non-smoking ashtrays, fantasy creatures and mosaics.  Her mosaic "Har(e)binger" was one of the Grand Rabbits displayed at the John Ball Park Zoo.

And so the studio came home! She ventured forth every spring to work with Very Special Arts students, whose enthusiasm and creativity were so inspiring! Her sculptures found their way into various galleries around Michigan; of particular note, the former Vesuvius in Glenn, the recent Art Beat in Grand Rapids and the Tamarack Gallery in Omena.  Over the years, she has also exhibited at Fountain Street Church and at Celebration, Frist United Methodist Church.

Now she finds herself in teh vortex of her home/studio making art in the midst of creative chaos.  She has participated in AtPrize 2010 and 2012 and has many projects underway, with some completed for the (current) Dominican Center showing, thanks she says "To Sister Francetta McCann!"

When she is not "doing art" she is organic gardening, walking her dog Lorca -- both these activities keep her connected to Nature and the Divine.  She observes all the beauty around her and marvels at God's artistry.  Then she returns home, inspired anew.

Being an artist is a challenging path, and it has brought her many interesting experiences and awarenesses. Mary Ellen is grateful indeed for all the many friends and family members that throughout the years have helped with their support to make this sojourn so fascinating.  And, she adds, "Thank you for coming to see the show (at Dominican Center) !" 

McNaughton will be Exhibiting from  September 3 – October 30, 2013.

The public is invited to meet and greet the artist at a public reception on October 13 at  Dominican Center.

For map of DCM Parking lot area, CLICK HERE

Francetta McCann, OP, is the gallery curator.
If you are a West Michigan artist interested in exhibiting your work at DCM, please email: [email protected] .

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