Updated: Mar 27, 2019
Where are you from? What brought you to Charlotte?
Home is wherever I am living at the moment with my husband and teenage twins! I grew up in CT and my family were some of first settlers there so I’m a true “Connecticut Yankee.” We moved to Charlotte two years ago when my husband took a position with LPL FInancial in Fort Mill, SC.
What most attracted you to abstract art?
I studied at The Corcoran College of Art + Design which was a European style museum art school. I was formally trained in the same set of skills artist have used for centuries. I consider it a gift to be able to paint like a master. After time though, I wanted to see what I could do beyond the traditional. I wanted to see what might be inside of me. Plus, I was really itching to use color and unusual materials in new ways.
Do you see any trends in the consumption of your art? Style, quantity, media, dimension, etc.
The way people appreciate and buy art has changed dramatically. The market is international, personal and there’s every price point imaginable. Right now, my art seems to have a life of its own. My paintings are gaining in recognition and appreciation in museums, with collectors and in online and brick and mortar galleries. I’m represented locally by Sozo Gallery and they have been selling my canvases like crazy! My work is also available in the Pottery Barn catalog and more recently my paintings have become a big hit with TV and movie set designers.
Explain the overall message of your art?
My art questions how we experience nature in our increasingly technological lives. I’m trying to counter the passive intake of images that bombard us everyday by enticing the viewer to engage a moment with one of my painted assimilations of nature.
What do you want people to feel after seeing your art?
Many collectors say my paintings reach them on a subconscious level or trigger a long-forgotten memory. I try to focus on creating “Slow Art” – paintings that deliberately draw viewers in to increase well-being or flourishing…I’m typically trying to shift myself and the viewer to a happy, peaceful frame of mind.
What is the defining characteristic of your work?
More often than not, nature, water specifically. I’ve always been fascinated by it. Though I have lived in many places, I always come back to the sea.
What is the process of painting a piece like for you? How long does it usually take?
In the studio, my work practice is spontaneous. I rarely make studies but always have a plan in mind. I begin with an underpainting and then add multiple layers. My old school painting skills give me the courage to work directly into the surface and the confidence to be innovative. I get messy and playful on canvas but never give up full control. I always think that whatever I create has to stand on its own. Some paintings come together quickly, others I work on for months…
Why do you choose to use various materials in your art?
I use paint and a host of other different materials interchangeably. I get a thrill from seeing what I can combine and still achieve what I think is a successful painting. The weirder, the better! I did a beautiful series of works on paper recently that had acrylic, oil crayon, plastics, woven vinyl, and even construction materials.
Where (state, landscape) do most of your nature assimilations portray? Why there?
Most of the time my art originates from visual memories of remote landscapes, waterways and intriguing natural objects like seedpods. I like to take long walks wherever I go. In the studio I sort the images of this mental slideshow and cull out elements that are not strictly representational but strike me as being vaguely familiar.
Are there any experiences that were a turning point for your career?
My painting comes out of a near death experience. In 1997, I found out that I needed life threatening surgery to fix a birth defect on an artery deep in my brain. With brain surgery they save the life support for the last minute before you go into the surgery room. There’s no time to think so you just have to trust in your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. I wrote, “if I can’t paint, pull the plug.” At the time, it had nothing to do with my day-to-day life! When I was finally able to work again after my surgery, it came back to me and I started art school. I’m pretty sure my art career would have never happened if I hadn’t needed brain surgery.
Do you have anything else that you would like our readers to know about you, your art, or your story in general?
My name is Mary Elizabeth but lots of people shorten it to ME (pronounced M. E.). You can check out my website maryelizabethpeterson.com and follow me on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. I’m represented by three fantastic galleries: Sozo Gallery, Markay Gallery and Silvermine Gallery.