On Being a Virtual Curator


Mary's Sunroom Studio at Quarry Hill
When I decided to build this website as a tribute to my mother's painting and thus to her life, little did I know what a gift to me this sobering responsibility would be. As I have received digital photos of the paintings she gave to friends and family members to upload into the main gallery, I've remembered many of these works so well having lived with them. I've just added a large number from the collection of Mary's grandniece, Allison Tate, which you must see.

A curator must be sensitive to the beholder as well as the wishes and will of the artist. Layout matters, and fortunately, virtual galleries are far easier to rehang than wood, canvas and glass ones. Today some friends are coming for coffee and dessert after a festive dinner out, and I moved one painting and hung another one in its place. Doing this took several trips up and down stairs and a request to my husband to hang the replaced one in a new place.
The photo of Mary's studio in the sunroom down the hall from her apartment at Quarry Hill shows how much making art meant to Mary to the very end. She was painting there and even doing some painting classes for other residents until a few months before her death when she weakened and was confined to a wheelchair. She had pretty good light there, as the room faced north, and the French doors afforded her some privacy, although few of her neighbors wandered in. Before this she painted at Posie Pattison's up Route One in Lincolnville Beach where she shared her lovely big studio for a number of years. She had a small extra room in her apartment at Megunticook House, before moving to Quarry Hill, where she kept her easel and did some work, but that room wasn't really adequate for her needs.

My mother's good friend renowned sculptor and painter Abbott Pattison was a wonderful guide to her in the final stage of her painting career. Abbott has been gone about 13 years as I write, but his son Harry has built a gorgeous tribute to his work which has informed my own efforts. Please click on the link above to visit the site when you can, especially if you knew Abbott or his work. I believe he was a very talented man, and major collections including the Whitney agree.

I sat for Abbott, and he painted me painting one sunny Maine afternoon at Posie's. You can see his creative addition of Mount Battie in the background. I'm not sure this painting shows it, but I've always maintained his work was Matisse-esque. He did a number of others of me that are spectacular but I won't share images of them here. Abbott helped Mary market herself more competitively. She cherished their friendship as well as their collegiality. Every artist, no matter the medium, needs honest, informed feedback. Abbott and his gifted sister Priscilla (Posie) gave her that, my father surely did, and in a small measure I did as well.

Shielagh Painting

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Major Contribution to the Gallery!


Allison Tate is a major Mary McNutt collector, estimating that she owns 75 to 100 works. Recently she photographed and sent us over 20 images which we have uploaded into the gallery. These works consist mostly of two categories: 1) Very early work, much of it very modern and unframed, probably done either during her master's program at Art Center or shortly thereafter; and 2) work done towards the very end of her life, already showing sweeping expanses of color with much less of the detail consistent with her earlier work. Several of these later works, all oils, have mystical qualities, evoking Christian symbolism of angels, the cross, or tunnels of light. 

Please take some time to revisit the Gallery and enjoy these paintings. We don't have the measurement or titles, such as they are avilable, from Allison yet, but there seems to be no point in delaying uploading this trove of Mary's work. Seen in its entirely, this amazing body of art reflects a true talent that spanned more than six decades.


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Previously published:

The Life and Art of Mary Lee McNutt, 1921-2005