At Mary Made It Studio, located at 2716 Atwood Ave., vibrant paintings line the tall white walls.
The paintings feature vivid landscapes from the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago.
All of these works tell a story, and many of those stories stem directly from the memories of artist Mary Gill, the woman behind the canvas.
“Everything here has a story. Every single one,” Gill said as she gestured toward her paintings. “I keep on going back to Trinidad all the time.”
Gill, who grew up in Trinidad, has spent much of her adult life traveling back and forth from her homeland to the American Midwest to pursue a career in art education. After receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degree in art education from UW-Madison, she went back to Trinidad to teach for several years before returning to Madison to receive her doctorate. In 1996, following her graduation, Gill taught for 10 years as a professor at Western Illinois University in Macomb, before briefly moving in 2006 to Atlanta, where she began to take oil painting classes, sparking her love for the medium.
People are also reading…
“Until that time, I was painting, but I was just sort of dabbling. I was more involved at the time with fabric design,” Gill said. “But what I learned there opened up a different world and took me into painting.”
Due to the economic recession in 2008, Gill said, she lost “everything,” including her home in Atlanta, prompting her to return to Trinidad to take care of her sister, who had fallen ill. Soon after, Gill’s sister died, leading Gill to return to the U.S.
Today, at age 76, Gill is back in Madison and pursuing the second act of her career as she runs her own art studio, selling original paintings and prints. Much of Gill’s work is tied to her Trinidadian heritage. She insists, however, that her art is for everyone, as it demonstrates the power of humanity’s shared experiences.
“We are all human,” Gill said. “We feel. We cry. We love. We’re just people.”
What do you love about painting?
I love the way I can tell my stories. It’s a way to give a physical home to a lot of experiences that I’ve had. When I came (to the U.S.), people regarded me as so different. If your life doesn’t reflect what they think it should, it’s hard for people to wrap their heads around it. I think that is why I paint. I want to show people that just because my experiences are different, they are not unlike everyone else’s.
What led you to pursue a professional artist career in Madison?
My eldest son lives in Madison and he loves it, so I decided I would come here. I was doing a little bit of painting, but not a great deal because I had difficulty calling myself an artist. I started painting seriously in my friend’s basement, but it wasn’t really a good spot to do that because he had grandchildren. Eventually, I decided if I’m going to do this, I need to do it seriously. So I found this space and I’m really pleased that I did.
As I get older, I’m getting more settled and becoming more comfortable with what I do. I think that was the reason behind putting up this studio. I’m not sure where this is taking me, but it’s fun.
On your website, you write that your paintings “have a Caribbean context but the background stories are universal.” Can you expand on that?
There’s a human story of how we do things, and the only difference is that we do them differently from place to place. So when I show a picture of my mother crocheting, other people say, “My mother used to crochet.” People are smart. People are foolish. People are silly wherever you go. I want the same things for my children that you want. I will do the same things for my family as you will. I may do it differently because my background is different. But basically, it is all the same. That’s what I try to get at.
“We are all human. We feel. We cry. We love. We’re just people.”
Credit: Source link