The Art of Living
Marybeth Bradbury uses a variety of media to tell stories through her art.
Some people tell stories with words. Marybeth Bradbury tells them with paint and crayons, cloth, glue and bits collected from her coastal environment.
“Each of us humans have a story,” she says. “We are wacky, wonderful, wounded creatures, beautiful in our imperfection, courageous in our vulnerability. Our outsides often don’t reflect our journeys, our stories, our painful or ugly parts.”
Bradbury describes her style: “I deliberately paint human faces and features in ethnically and sometimes gender ambiguous manners to not allow the viewer an immediate pigeon-holing of the character, but to ask them to investigate the image for more than a superficial story.”
Bradbury’s studio hints at her story. Two large tables sit facing each other. A wooden easel occupies a corner, everything tidied for a writer’s visit, even the small sink is spotless, unusual in an artist atelier. Bins hold fabric (she also sews). Dolls made from palm stems and fabric look down from bookshelves. Craftsman toolboxes contain paints, markers, inks, papers, tools and hardware. Paintbrushes tucked into tins and baskets point skyward as though seeking inspiration.
Her art hangs on the walls throughout her home, though her grandchildren’s art hangs sacred in the studio overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.
Over the last several years, Bradbury has created in-depth series paintings, her most recent being Loving Kindness, a response to current events and the need she recognizes in our world for kindness and compassion. These paintings feature peaceful, quiet faces surrounded by swirling, organic shapes and linework that bring a gentle energy to the work. Each piece begins with a phrase of loving kindness, handwritten in India ink on rice paper, which is then collaged into the canvas or paper.
Bradbury says, “The words are never readable or even visible in the final piece, but their intentions are imbued into the images in an integral way, and they provide a focus for me as I work, a way for me to paint with the spirit of that intention always forefront in my mind.”
The Loving Kindness exhibit hung in the Sertoma Arts Center in Raleigh this winter. Another series, Martyrs and Legends, most recently hung in the ACES Gallery in Wilmington. Both are visible on her website.
Like many children of Depression-era parents, Bradbury grew up, got a good paying job and raised a family before she allowed her creative side to flourish.
“In high school art class there was always someone better than me,” she says. “I thought being an artist was a talent you were born with, but that’s so not true. You can have an interest, and then it’s a lot of work, putting in the time. But no one told me that.”
After earning an associate’s degree, she cobbled together a career, taking every job she got and making it just a bit bigger. Eventually she became a director of technical services for an educational software company.
“I was problem solving all the time,” she says. “That’s where I used my creative juices. I see art that way, too, solving problems. You have an idea of what you want to create, then something goes awry, and you take a detour.”
Bradbury won an iPad at work and began making digital art while she traveled for her job. She earned a bachelor’s degree in visual arts, then in 2013 moved to southeastern North Carolina and “got a space that I didn’t have to clean up so we could eat dinner,” she says with a laugh.
Creating is her life now, problem solving images to paper and exploring the double-edged coin of art by “presenting yourself to the world in a way that you are very vulnerable and having people accept you and love you. They get you, or not.”