Mary & Tyrone Proctor
Ruskin Park in Seaside FL
The first time I met Mary Proctor was at Atlanta's Slotin Folk Art Show in Aug 2004. By the end of that year I would open a FolK Art Gallery In Point Washington FL just so I could have a Missionary Mary Proctor show.
I turned a corner and There she was. There in a cerulean blue dress that sparkled, every bit the diva. I was star struck. The woman who's work I had so admired for so many years. Raw Vision magazine had run a feature on Mary in 2000 and her cover stopped me in my tracks.
Original characters, original iconography.
She sat, greeting the long line waiting to meet her and have her personally dedicate the paintings they had purchased . When it was my turn I tried to impress her with how much I loved her work and bla bla bla. She was so polite, but since she normally wore a set of earphones so it was difficult to know if she was really listening to you or the music. I really wanted her to remember me. I was already dreaming of having a whole gallery full of her work. (I just didn't happen to have a gallery.)
So, I dropped a name: Catherine Dickson.
Missionary Mary Proctor and Catherine Dickson 2007
Catherine had run away from being a lawyer in Tallahassee and opened an art gallery in a beach town where I worked for her.
But before she left Tallahassee she had
saved Mary Proctor's life.
I was unaware of that when said Catherine's name, just that I knew an old friend of hers from Tallahassee.
Catherine had told me she had known Mary for many years. She didn't mention the part about saving Mary's life. That story wouldn't come out for years. (Until one night at my gallery with a room full of people in the middle of an opening when they told everything, each one taking turns.)
But, at that moment, the effect was electric.
Mary Proctor leaped out of her chair like she had been shot out of a cannon. She threw her arms up in the air just like one of her paintings and started jumpinf up and down in the aisle yelling "MY CATHY!! MY CATHY!! MY CATHY!!!" at the top of her lungs. Then she added "WHERE IS SHE??? WHERE IS SHE??? WHERE IS SHE???" to the chant.
Tapping my phone as fast as I could, She was ecstatic waiting for me to get her Cathy for her.
I don't know what they said to each other. The place was shoulder to shoulder so I moved away so not to intrude. Later when I went back to get my phone she thanked me with much emotion for putting her back in touch with someone she loved so much. I didn't understand anything about what just happened. I still had stars in my eyes looking at the little painting I bought of a woman with her head thrown back and her arms in the air that said: "If God made anything better than a woman, he must of kept it for himself."
So I came home and set about trying to get a local gallery to do a show for Mary. Catherine was retiring and no one wanted to take the risk of doing something called "Outsider Art".
There was nothing left to do but open my own gallery.
And hire a video crew to go to Tallahassee and film her in her own words in her AMERICAN MUSEUM AND FOLK ART GALLERY
Mary Proctor was born in Tallahassee Florida in 1960. Her early life was hard. She doesn't like to talk about how difficult it was growing up poor outside the city. "I just praise God because of my art.", she says.
When Mary was 32, her beloved Grandmother and her aunt and uncle were killed in a house fire.
Under an oak tree in her NOAH'S ARK FLEA MARKET, Mary painted Christ of a salvaged piece of plywood.
The plywood painting at the foot of the tree has weathered so much over the years, it has nearly become part of the tree.
" 'My grandmother really was the one who raised me, and my aunt and uncle were always there, and I was praying then to figure out her death, figure out why such things happen to such good people. And then I felt like I could hear my grandfather's voice, saying "God will show you the way."' In January 1995, Mary decided to go on a fast and confront the meaning of her loss. She retired to her back yard, under an old oak tree, to drink only water and spend her days reading the Bible and meditating. On the thirtieth day of her fast, she had a vision of 'blinding light, brighter than the sun.' It was different 'than any earthly light. It was shining just for me, surrounding me,' she said. A voice told her to go to an outbuilding on her property and get a door, some paint and a brush. At the building, Mary found a door and some blue paint. She returned to the oak tree where she had been meditating and the voice told her to paint the door. The instructions, Mary says, got more specific." Steve Kistulentz/Raw Vision
This painting is on 12ft tall garage doors on the NOAH'S ARK FLEA MARKET property.
Mary's inspiration was so compelling that within a year she was making headlines in mainstream art. First discovered by Claude Stephens, she had her first one-woman show at Railroad Square in Tallahassee. Shortly after, Tricia Collins discovered Mary's paintings of her grandmother on doors and opened a one woman show for her at TRICIA COLLINS GRAND SALON in New York.
Raw Vision Magazine, a seminal resource for Outsider Art, featured Missionary Mary Proctor in Volume 29. Her image on the the cover: a woman with her head thrown back singing. She has been featured in many other fine publications and represented in many collections both here and abroad.
The original Eileen West Gallery in Point Washington Florida
Opening Evening of Mary's Show at EWG in the historic "B&B Cash Store"
building in Point Washington FL. Nov. 2004
Randy Horton and MIchael Weinrib pictured.
This image shows Missionary Mary Proctor's artwork on the big screen at the MOUNTAIN FILM FESTIVAL in Watercolor FL. Nov 2005
This is Mary and "Big Mary" in Ruskin Park Seaside FL at the second location of EWG in 2007.
Here are a few of the pieces the gallery has for sale.
These two dolls are quite rare. There is only one other, named for Zora Neale Hurston, with a private collector.
The doll on the left is $350., the doll on the right holds a "book" with the story of how Mary came to be an artist and is priced at $650.
UNITED WE STAND
Missionary Mary Proctor
18" x 12" Acrylic paint on salvaged tin $225.
This piece from 1995 is far more beautiful than this picture shows.
Carved into a slice of tree truck, there is a picture of Mary with a chain saw doing this series in the 1999 RAW VISION magazine. This piece reads as much contemporary art as folk art. A significant piece.
4.5 ft tall and 14 inches wide at the top. Oil based black lacquer paint, African print fabric pieces, on tree trunk.
Mary was invited to exhibit at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe ('The Genre Formerly Known as Outsider: Eight Extraordinary Artists.')
'I saw in Mary's work an energy, a melding of Anglo- and African-American traditions, all of it coming together in a unique way. And it had an authenticity to it that is unfortunately sometimes lacking in work I see elsewhere.' Annie Carlano, Curator of American and European Collections
At 48, Mary Proctor works prolifically and travels constantly. Her husband Tyrone has retired after 25 years as a firefighter and gets Mary and her work to shows all over the southeast.
Her flea market has changed names. Now it is known as the American Folk Art Museum and Gallery.
This just barely begins to tell about Mary Proctor. This list of collections and exhibits does not come near representing all of Mary's accomplishments.
Missionary Mary Proctor and Woodie Long
Eileen West Gallery in Point Washington FL Nov 2004
850.502.1847 / 850.225.3024