Preserve a Piece of Mary

Self-taught artists are often treasures of local cultural heritage.  They seem to develop their artistic sensibilities organically, growing out of a particular place, and a certain calling compels them to express themselves creatively.  The themes of their art frequently reflect their connections to a distinct locality.  Moreover, many use found objects as the raw materials of their creations, and in these cases, the materials themselves can tell stories about time and place. 

NY Times photo by Jeremy Lange

Let’s celebrate, then, that the town of Wilson has funding to move ahead with its whirligig park, filled with Vollis Simpson’s creations.  What a wonder of personal vision, resourcefulness, and wind-powered whimsy for the town to corral and promote!

Yet another self-taught artist from North Carolina’s Coastal Plain has received a good amount of publicity over the last few years.  “Mary’s Gone Wild” is the name Mary Paulsen has given to the “museum” she has built near Holden Beach.  Several documentaries have been produced about her and her work, and touring sites, such as Roadside America and Atlas Obscura, also feature her.  But unlike Vollis Simpson, whose creations also grace the grounds of the North Carolina Museum of Art, Mary’s work may not be currently represented at local or statewide cultural collecting institutions.  

 Mary Paulsen has a unique story of growing up in poverty in the Brunswick County beach area, as one of ten children in a local shrimping family.  As an adult she worked for many years waiting tables at a calabash seafood restaurant.  Her divine inspiration to begin painting on the reverse side of cast-away windows went hand-in-hand with an impulse to raise money for hungry children all over the world.  Examples of her work, then, could straddle art and history collections.  Her paintings and other glass art are cultural heritage artifacts that local and statewide history organizations should consider collecting. 

Red-headed mermaid in a bottle house, by self-taught artist Mary Paulsen


About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on September 1, 2011, in collections access, Exhibitions and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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