Mary Farmer: The Encaustic Painter Fighting for Social Justice
For today’s guest Mary Farmer, art is important for more reasons than will ever be possible to count. From aiding cognitive development and critical thinking skills to beautifying the world we live in, art matters to us all.
Mary Farmer, is an internationally-recognized encaustic painter based in Asheville, North Carolina, whose work creates a portal into a timeless, transcendent state of consciousness.
Interestingly, Mary’s paintings serve as a counterbalance to her firebrand spirit. Tireless in her pursuit of liberty and equity, she has put herself in harm’s way time during her lifelong fight for social justice and women’s rights.
In this episode, we hear about Mary’s life, what growing up in Alabama was like, and some of the admirable work she has done establishing abortion clinics in the South.
Mary then shares details about her art practice, including insights into the encaustic technique, where wax – rather than oil or water – is used to carry pigment. We find out how she came to choose this method and the different relationship she has with her work as a result.
Our conversation also touches on the business side of an art career, why artists should not shy away from this, and the power of language in reframing arguments to enable change. Be sure to tune in today!
“The business part of art is different from other business, I understand that. It is kind of a luxury market. It is not something you must have. It's not food; it’s not shelter. But it does feed your soul and it’s something that many, many people want. So, it’s up to you to find a way to deliver that.” — Mary Farmer [0:43:52.0]
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From Cult To Comedy, A Memoir, by Katie Love
The year is 1970. The horror soap opera “Dark Shadows” is all the rage, the Vietnam War is raging and nine-year-old Katie, an imaginative and independent latch-key kid, comes home from school to discover her mother’s suicide.
Taken in by her older sister who has recently become a Jehovah’s Witness, Katie is shown an illustration from a bible picture book featuring wild animals peacefully lounging by a pool of water, surrounded by happy people picking fruit. An enticing offer is made: “Katie, this is Paradise. Do you want to see Mom again, happy and living forever? All you have to do is follow all of Jehovah’s commandments and you can be with Mom again.”
Mom happy and living forever? Two tickets to Paradise, please!
So begins Katie’s zealous quest to attain perfection and entrance into a utopian world which promises peace, love, and happiness. She discovers a much darker world. “Two Tickets to Paradise, from Cult to Comedy” tells the hilarious and heartbreaking story of an earnest, bible-toting kid intent on saving the world, and follows her metamorphosis into a boisterous comedian intent on saving herself through the healing powers of humor.
Key Points From Our Episode with Mary Farmer:
- How Mary and her husband dealt with the shutdown and how it affected her art practice.
- The strength that Mary found when she was able to vocalize her sexual assault.
- Why Mary is such a strong advocate for school nurses and counselors.
- Mary’s experience of going to school in Alabama the year public schools were integrated.
- Why Mary had to leave Alabama as soon as she could.
- The contrast between Mary’s firebrand spirit and her soothing, calming art.
- Hear about some of the work Mary has done for women’s reproductive rights.
- Beautiful things that have happened in Mary’s community before and during the pandemic.
- What Mary’s studio practice looks like and how she structures her days and workflow.
- An explanation of the encaustic painting technique and how Mary discovered it.
- Why encaustic has taught Mary to not make assumptions and preconceived notions.
- The main thorn in Mary’s side as an artist – Why she hates writing artist statements.
- How the business side of Mary’s art practice has improved over the years.
- Mary’s strategies and tips for avoiding exploitation as an artist.
- Why having a clear business plan as an artist is so empowering.
- The incredible contribution that art makes to all of our lives.
- What Mary has gained from Asheville, a city with such a rich culture.
- This scarcity mindset that is so prevalent pits us all up against one another.
- Language matters; it is important to reframe arguments to get things done.
- Moving artworks is an art form in itself, so you have to find people who know what they’re doing.
“If you don’t want to hate, you don’t have to.” — Mary Farmer [0:16:50.0]
“There are really two rules in encaustic: It doesn’t like water-based stuff and it doesn’t like a flexible surface. Beyond that, it’s open.” — Mary Farmer [0:28:09.0]
“Art is important to all of us.” — Mary Farmer [0:36:04.0]
“Realize what your worth is. And when you set a price on your painting, don’t discount it.” — Mary Farmer [0:42:32.0]
“Artists, you are worth it! You are contributing a massive amount to the economy of your state, so take that power and make it work for you.” — Mary Farmer [0:52:05.0]
Links Mentioned in Our Episode with Mary Farmer:
- Mary Farmer — https://www.maryfarmer.com/
- Georgia State Art School — https://artdesign.gsu.edu/
- Man One — http://www.manone.com/
- Man One on Twitter — https://twitter.com/ManOneArt
- Scott “Sourdough” Power — https://www.instagram.com/sourdoughpower/
- Not Real Art — https://notrealart.com/
- Not Real Art School — https://school.notrealart.com/
- Not Real Art on Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/notrealartworld/
- Erin Yoshi — https://www.erinyoshi.com/
“Words have been charged and people don’t really understand their meaning. I don’t understand why the will for change isn’t there. We come from this place of scarcity, where we don’t want anyone else to have it. And I don’t believe in that at all. I believe that there is plenty out there. Let's just share it and spread it around. What the heck? How many cars can I buy? How many garages can I fill? How many rooms can I live in? How many shirts do I need, really?” — Mary Farmer [0:56:38.0]