Borseda, Italy

October 18th, 2017


Ellen Kochansky’s Rensing Center Residency in Borseda, Italy is a delightful refuge. On the last week of September, we travelled increasingly winding roads through a hailstorm followed by a rainbow. All of the descriptions and tidbits of kind information made the key turn of a green door open to a place and time that I will forever cherish.

I visited this secluded town in the Ligurian mountains with my husband John Sperry, a pediatrician known as the Dr. Babe. With us were daughters Labanna, 31, from New Orleans, and Reba, 29, from Asheville. We have an upcoming show called “Family Ties” at tThe Southern contemporary gallery during Charleton’s Spoleto festival 2018 starting May 17th through July 8th. With no WiFi in this ancient village, we began our collaborative process.

Both daughters are capable artists, with huge personalities that could not be more different, and incredible cooks. For dinner, Labanna made a stew using squilla mantis, a huge local shrimp, along with wine, shallots, butter, parsley, tomatoes, sea asparagus, and garlic. Reba figured out the gas stove in the well-equipped kitchen. After we ate, a bat darted about, and Labanna the Bat Whisperer used her coos and a lavender-embroidered dishtowel to capture and release it to freedom.

We had our first breakfast on the outdoor patio, then took a introductory photographic walk through the village where grapevines were turning crimson. Labanna and I spent the rest of the quiet day painting while John and Reba read.

On Tuesday we day tripped to Cinque Terre. From southernmost Riomaggiore first, we took a train to Monterossa al Mare. There we dined overlooking the beach, where the girls sunbathed and swam in the salty sea. Next Vernazza, smaller and less touristy, and on to Corniglia, where we climbed over three hundred steps. Manarola was our sunset village with boats returning to the streets. After a full day of people-watching and walking, we drove home to a sauce of pork and beef made the night before using Ellen’s spices.

The next morning we painted watercolors and discussed the Southern, argued and reconciled. We hiked five miles of the stunning Alta Via ridge near Veppo. For dinner, we had yummy beans that took four days to cook, with fish from the Wednesday truck. Reba stacked the futon with every comforter in the house, and she and Labanna slept by the wood stove. John and I cuddled comfortably in a separate room with shutters open.

Thursday morning, we took the long route along the coast to Genoa, where my dear friend John Taylor, godfather to my daughters, lived as a young man. We entered the remnants of 12th century San Andrea cloisters, saw work by Rubens (1589-1606), and enjoyed an antique market full of treasures. For dinner, Labanna stuffed squash blossoms with gorgonzola dolce and my leftover sauce, served with Reba’s salad of shaved brussel sprouts, raw peas, lemon, garlic, and reduced balsamic.

Paulo, Rensing’s caretaker, was setting out to gather mushrooms early Friday morning as we left for La Spezia flea market. Our last day, we went to Veppo and visited a little restaurant owned by Stephano, friend of Ellen’s. He served us a lunch made with love by his mother, along with two bottles of wine. Delicious! After that, everyone napped while I painted.

I am so grateful to Ellen for this escape with my loved ones. If you want an artist, writer or ecologist this residency in authentic Italy then the Rensing Center’s Borseda Program is perfect. The one bedroom, living room, kitchen, bath and large outdoor terrace is in a town of about 26 residents who don’t speak English. We were lucky to have this adventure as a family, on the border of Tuscany in a tiny neighborhood of peace.

Anthropocene Blues

August 30th, 2017

“Anthropocene Blues” by Jack Lane, cover art by Mary Edna Fraser

You can purchase the poetry book “Athropocene Blues” on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Anthropocene-Blues-Poems-John-Lane/dp/0881466255/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504122531&sr=8-1&keywords=anthropocene+blues

In the story of the earth, geologists tell us that around 12,000 years ago the planet shifted from the Pleistocene to the Holocene. There probably were poets to sing about that change, but of what they sang, we have no records. Even earlier, paintings on cave walls point toward an artistic response from our upstart species. These early artists painted the Pleistocene’s last great ice age herds thundering past.

Now John Lane’s traveling geologist sings a dawning epoch’s blues. The Anthropocene is upon us, and his poems show how humans believe they have become “the planet’s boss, the big chief, the emperor of air, diesel fuel, bow thrusters, and tax shelters…”

And if you don’t believe the times are changing, consider these poems–full of dead-on-the-road groundhogs and radial tires, carbon-spewing adventure travel, masturbating parrots, and mounds and mounds of garbage–as twenty-first-century objective correlatives John Keats might recognize.

But all is not collapse out there. The puny human voice William Faulkner praised in his Nobel acceptance speech sings amidst the 6th Great Extinction. These lyrics and narratives deposit the pleasures of contemporary poetry in the carbon record.

CATEGORIES: Art Work, Batiks, Books, News |

“STRADA AT HOBCAW” STRADA Easel Video Challenge

July 31st, 2017


Mary Edna climbed the fire tower at Hobcaw Barony to paint plein air for the Strada Easel Video Challenge. She has a ball with her Strada easel on location and back in the studio. Watch for the hilarious ending! This video was compiled from Facebook live videos. Please watch and share so we can go viral!

28th International Cartographic Conference exhibitions in Washington, DC

July 3rd, 2017

The Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CAGIS) invited us to display art for the 28th International Cartographic Conference of the International Cartographic Association, supporting two exhibitions in Washington, DC.

“cARTography” at Wardman Marriott (2660 Woodley Road NW) atrium installation is now open to the public, on display until July 6th at noon. Large-scale silks hang from the gridded ceiling.

“Rising Tides” at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery (1632 U Street, NW) opens July 5th, with a public reception Friday, July 7th, 7-9pm, on display until August 26. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Friday 11am – 5pm and Saturday, 11am – 3pm.

See a video shot during the load-in at the Healing Arts Gallery. We are honored to be working with director Spencer Dormitzer and wonderful staff at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery whose mission is to promote physical, emotional, and mental resources that lead to life-affirming changes for people affected by cancer.

I have so many friends and colleagues in DC. Please try to catch me while I’m town!

“Force of Nature” feature in Charleston Magazine

May 15th, 2017

Mary Edna is so honored for her most recent work, from oil painting to climate change activism, to be featured in the May 2017 issue of Charleston Magazine. Many thanks to Stephanie Hunt for the brilliant writing, to Leigh Weber for the stunning photography, and especially to editor Darcy Shankland for inclusion in CM. Read the full article and view photos here on their site…

The Boundary at Moreland Village large-scale commission

April 21st, 2017

Longtime friend Joni Vanderslice at J. Banks Design commissioned a large-scale print installation for The Boundary at Moreland Village in Bluffton, SC. Rick Rhodes photographed the original “Hobcaw Barony” (batik on silk) at their Discovery Center in Georgetown, SC. Mary Edna’s assistant Celie Dailey digitally stitched the images of the multi-panel batik art. It was printed on an 18’2″ x 3’8″ canvas, at such high resolution that it looks like the original herringbone silk.

Many thanks to Joni and Laura Page at J. Banks, Rick Rhodes Photography and Celie for all their support!

Sumter “Lowcountry” opening and artist talk tonight!

February 23rd, 2017

“Lowcountry” Silks & Oils
February 23 – April 21
Opening reception February 23rd, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Artist talk 6:30 pm
Sumter County Gallery of Art
Sumter, SC

Hummocks, oil on panel, 4″ x 12″

Edisto Island Preservation Alliance exhibit and talk

December 6th, 2016

As guest speaker for the Edisto Island Preservation Alliance Annual Meeting, I put up a one-day exhibit for my talk “Mary Edna Fraser, Artist, Environmentalist” on November 6th, 2016. Cecelia Dailey helped hang the batiks in their beautiful old barn. What a wonderful group of environmentally-minded folks gathered to continue conservation of the ACE Basin!

"Mary Edna Fraser, Artist, Environmentalist" Edisto Island Preservation Alliance Annual Meeting, November 2016

"Mary Edna Fraser, Artist, Environmentalist" Edisto Island Preservation Alliance Annual Meeting, November 2016

"Mary Edna Fraser, Artist, Environmentalist" Edisto Island Preservation Alliance Annual Meeting, November 2016

"Mary Edna Fraser, Artist, Environmentalist" Edisto Island Preservation Alliance Annual Meeting, November 2016

Mary Edna Fraser exhibits with photographer Cecelia Naomi Dailey at Spring Island, SC

December 5th, 2016

Mary Edna Fraser’s oils paintings, both plein air and large scale studio pieces, capture the vibrancy of the lowcountry landscape. Cecelia Naomi Dailey‘s photographs use a camera-less technique called lumens, where plant materials are collected and laid on top of photo paper to create a light impression. Both artists extensively research and ground-truth the locations they depict in their chosen media. Fraser is known for her aerial imagery and working with Duke geologist Orrin Pilkey to educate the public on the fragile coast. Dailey works with Citadel botanist Richard Porcher on books and multi-media presentations which explore the relationship between culture and natural history. Spring Island hosted the two as artists in residence where they stayed for a week (November 6-12th, 2016) exploring the woods and marshlands as inspiration for their work. Their collaborative talk “Artists as Activists” and exhibition opening was November 9th.

Mary Edna Fraser and Cecelia Naomi Dailey, Spring Island Artists in Residence, exhibition November 9, 2016

Cecelia Naomi Dailey, Spring Island Artist in Residence, exhibition November 9, 2016

Mary Edna Fraser, Spring Island Artist in Residence, exhibition November 9, 2016

Mary Edna Fraser, Spring Island Artist in Residence, exhibition November 9, 2016

Mary Edna Fraser, Spring Island Artist in Residence, exhibition November 9, 2016
Mary Edna Fraser and Cecelia Naomi Dailey, Spring Island Artists in Residence, exhibition November 9, 2016

Cecelia Naomi Dailey, Spring Island Artist in Residence, exhibition November 9, 2016

PleinAir Magazine features “Akaiyan Falls”

December 5th, 2016

PleinAir Magazine Dec/Jan 2017 issue (now available on newsstands) featured my “Akaiyan Falls” oil on panel, framed 8″ x 24″ as 1 of 11 in their series of National Parks Porfolio.

Akaiyan Falls, 8" x 24" oil on panel, framed

Akaiyan Falls, 8″ x 24″ oil on panel, framed

CATEGORIES: Art Work, News, Oil Paintings |