June 26, 2014
Mary Ann Wakeley
Mary Ann Wakeley was born September 17, 1961 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The eldest of six children, she spent her youth in the Philadelphia suburbs known as the Main Line. A quiet and reserved child, she spent time outside of school practicing piano and helping with the care of her siblings. She recalls time spent painting, drawing, teaching herself to play guitar, occasionally writing short stories and putting on plays with neighborhood friends. She has vividly colored memories associated with certain events of her youth.
After high school she immediately began working in a number of fields from retail to corporate environments. The creative impulse remained with her. In the eighties and mid nineties she briefly attended the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Sciences for drawing and design, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art for life drawing.
In 2002 she committed to painting full time, beginning with portraits and quickly transitioning to the magical world of abstract painting where anything could be expressed in a beautiful way. Using mixed media, color and line, she freely explores feelings and relationships. She is inspired by nature, dreams, foreign places, and is profoundly moved by music. Her sensitivity and empathic nature are a part of each work she creates.
Mary Ann has been sharing her paintings with the public via galleries and the internet since 2004. She works from her home studio in the Philadelphia area where she lives with her husband and dog. She is the mother of two adult sons, both of whom are artists.
Consenses Interview with Sally Taylor:
Your Name: Mary Ann Wakeley
Where you live: Wynnewood, PA
Where you came from: Wynnewood, PA
Your Medium: Mixed Media (oils, pastels, acrylic, ink, charcoal) on paper, wood and canvas
The name of your work: Song for Sally
What made you want to participate in this project?
The concept of what inspires an artist, as well as the joining of artists to inspire each other through their work to form a unique creative experience, resonated with me.
What was your first reaction to the song? (Thoughts, emotions, memories, tastes, smells etc?) If you had to choose one word to sum up the song what would it be?
I was personally moved by the music itself and the bittersweet feelings conveyed through the lyrics. I felt that they were written especially for me at the time, they had such an impact on me and what was going on in my life when I listened to it. I tend to experience things in life on a deep and intensive level, which I am not always able to process and or convey verbally. It is why I pour myself into my work.
What was the story behind the song about in your mind?
I felt that the song embodied the longing to be free in every sense of the word as it applies to us as humans and spirits, and the need to express that freedom–how can we express something we sense we are yet have not truly experienced. For me, it is a song about liberation. It spoke to me of the strings that attach us to the world and how we allow ourselves to be bound by them, yet we know if we can give them up we can experience true freedom. Perhaps it is about the hell of being caught between desires and the longing to lose those desires. It felt very spiritual to me.
Take me through each step of your process to your creation.
I remember feeling that the song inspired hope and I set about working with colors and forms that flowed and felt as free as possible. In all my work there has to be a harmonious resolution for the work to hold together, and this was no different in that regard. Initially I thought I would create a large piece that would allow me to convey the expansive freedom at which the lyrics hinted. But I was not able to arrive at the feeling on the large pieces of wood using the materials I started out with (the oil was dragging and because it takes so long to dry I was not able to used the pastels and other mediums at once), and it began to feel cumbersome and frustrating. So I stopped working on the wood thinking I would go back to it later and kept it simple by working on a medium size sheet of paper. Paper more than any other material offers me the greatest freedom to work with–the mediums flow and adhere best as they are applied. This allows less thinking and more feeling to come through in the work. I was then able to listen to the music and put down exactly what wanted to come out freely and expressively.
What did you title your work and why?
I titled the piece Heart Fly to represent the inner soar experienced when we glimpse moments of truth and synchronicity, such as what I felt while hearing the music and translating it into the painting.
What part of the song informed you’re interpretation the most?
“A caged bird still sings even though he can’t see the sky, for in his heart he knows there are other ways to fly”.
What part of your painting came to you first?
This I cannot answer because I truly do not remember! I would most certainly guess that I chose a color to reflect the warmth of the song.
How do you normally create? How was this experience different?
My process begins with the first material and color that I pick up which reflects what I am feeling. I don’t know until I put it down whether I will continue with it or switch off to something else that resonates more closely to the moment. I almost always have music playing while I work because it helps me to recognize what and how I am feeling, and thereby allows me to put it to paper. This project was the first time that I ever allowed a single song to inspire a work. I guess I could say most of my works are medleys where as this was a solo piece.
What techniques/tools did you use to help you express you’re interpretation?
Well considering that I started out using oil, pastel and charcoal on wood but then switched over to paper, it was a bit of a collaborative work in that the initial pieces were a bit of a warm up for the smaller final piece. In the end the work was made with oil bar, pastels and conte crayon on paper in a process of blending and blurring as it progressed. I lose myself in the process so it is impossible to put into words or retrace my steps.
Are there certain choices you made which mean something specific to you that the observer might not know?
I am not aware of anything specific. I pretty much leave it all out there in the work. There are always subtle things that a viewer may see that I don’t and which may inform me. This is another beautiful thing about art in that we can learn through what others see as part of our experience together.
Extra credit: Did you enjoy this project? More you want to say about your experience?
I enjoyed this project very much and am eagerly anticipating seeing how it all comes together. I have been contemplating it for months now as I just can’t imagine it with so many creative people involved and the myriad possibilities where it may arrive!