Mary Manusos  fine artist


Artist Statement

Taking something visceral and making it temporal 

Taking something temporal and making it visceral

Taking something real and making it enigmatic

“I collaborate with myself.”

I have made many choices in my career as an artist.  The images I make are my reality.  When I am in my studio the paper, ink and paint I work with feel parallel to my existence.  I only need to reach out and engage what is there at my grasp to create the propositions I am thinking of.  The color choices are intuitive, the design is in my memory and the final result is recognized when it presents itself as finished. 

I like the materials I use because of their physical nature.  The wood and metal that I scratch cut and etch into gives way to my physical manipulation.  I am an active participant in the creation of the matrix that I will use in endless attempts to phrase what I am seeing in my minds eye.  I feel like I am participating rather than watching.  My art offers me a place to stop and reflect on my state of being.  The drawings that I bring to life with my tools are a slow motion version of thought that ends up being more provocative than the journey it takes to get to its completion. 

The uncertain and imprecise way of constructing an image is sometimes a model I use to give life to the meaning in my works.  A temporal space can become a metaphor for architectural space, a sense of place, time and being all at once.  The metaphor defined and described with the speed in which the color and line are originated and organized.  Constantly being re-arranged in layers that refer to each other.  

What informs my work has been thought about and discussed endlessly as I teach, travel and photograph during my countless journeys here and abroad.  History, philosophy and encounters from the ancient Greek culture have infused all of my encounters subsequent to my teens.  I came early to the idea that one has to look backwards to see the present.  As a child I just wanted to draw what was in front of me or what I was describing.  After living in Greece I realized that the drawings themselves evoked larger questions.  They brought with them all that I knew about the past and the cultures I was drawing from.  I am more interested in interpretation through representation.  In this way I can beg the question of what is important and create postulates that call attention to them.  I love how I can engage a viewer through contradictory arrangements of energy color and line.  The works become a focus of a sense of floating connections and multilayered highways of consciousness.   Where one lane has one thought until you drive up and you are overtaken by a completely different thought when you reach your destination it seems a natural phenomenon in my upbringing to have these contradictory thoughts running in tandem.  It is the stuff life is made of and philosophers continues to have an endless debate over.


When I was thirteen we moved to Greece, where I attended the Arsakion.   My mother was very concerned that I would lose my knowledge of my Greek heritage and become just another American like all of our neighbors.  This created a situation for me where I had two countries and two identities.  My work addresses these feelings that I still have about who I am and who everyone else is.  I think sometimes it created instant dualities in most of my perceptions.

My work addresses my feeling about the physical world.  I see the strength of simplicity, and I see strength in the contemplative.  I see how all can be powerful, fleeting, passionate and deeply rooted at the same time.  These conflicts of thought push me to create.  I look for the passion of my work as my reason to continue.  My works allow me to be provocative.  I love the exhilaration of the moment when I recognize the energy and simultaneous timelessness have created.  I am well aware that if the images fail to arrest and intrigue no amount of analyzing or talking can redeem them.  When an image grabs me I instinctively know it is complete.

These images of parallel layers of space that define and challenge each other simultaneously are dancing with each other.  The relationship that is experience by seeing them at the same time creates a dialogue of real time and timelessness.  A sense of urgency transpires.  Always these dialogues within the image and its emergence as both a life force and a paradigm of life after death conspire.  In the work there is a reference to a state of grace.  A particular observation is isolated and all the ideas one can have on life and history are in discourse.

These prints of landscape and architecture are close up views of a state of documenting then removing from the place they are found.  The resulting portraits of place and form are dismembered put back together to make new propositions.  These images are usually found in simple situations on the course of a walk.  There is not much that distinguishes one building from another, a ditch, a road, a hedge, a blanket, or a flower.  The distinction comes when I decide to use an image and create its urgency.  The works are in response to what I feel about the Latin American landscape.  A landscape that is given meaning by the lives that it supports.  The variety of ephemera of human intervention and invention on the landscape is of great interest to me.  The history left behind evokes a story as I record it.  I can bring many emotions to the work through the use of my colors and the strength of my lines.  One can feel the weight of the place I am defining and the sunshine that exudes from it’s life force. 

For the most part the drawing proceeds as an architectural plan with occasional stops for assessment of its correctness and personality.  The elements of shape color, and surface are recorded as the underpinning of the handmade paper painting on which the drawing will be printed.  The surface of the paper painting accentuates the structure of the drawing and lends a strong colorful force under the drawing.  The play of the two pieces of corresponding information creates the ambiance the artwork will have.  The drawings are usually etched into zinc or cut into wood.   These plates are usually printed in one color keeping in mind how strongly I want them to appear against the colors of the poured paper.

The atmosphere or background information of the poured images will create a fight with the drawing and emerge almost victorious to the viewer.   The purpose of this way of working is to get to the essence of what I want the image to be about.  It also creates the dialogue of what is right, the drawing (description) or the personality (poured colored paper).  I feel the work is more accurate as to how I see the world and ultimately more realistic and urgent.  I feel I get to the essence of what each image is about more accurately when I can have a chorus rather than a soloist.  The  coarse etching or woodblock, the imperfections of the poured paper,  and the imprecise registration all produce an image with an exceptional special nature.  I take responsibility for each individual piece so that they are not alike yet deliberately planned to give a long explanation that confirms my determination that each piece is greater than the sum of its parts in story and ambiance.  I am committed to transcend memory and give each work a life of its own.  The sensation for me is one of discovery rather than invention.

The things, which I think of as vital, don’t always maintain their place in an image.  Sometimes the struggle to obliterate my first impulse becomes the focus of my print. I might think all the detail I am struggling to bring to the image is important and then find the basic form is more critical because of how it projects itself.  I will then pour a bright color under the details of that form so that I can regain the spirit of the form.  This goes on to intrigue me to do something similar in other work on occasion.  In this way the images become more and more about how I proceed to get to a conclusion and less and less about the subject matter’s accuracy.  This process of disremembering goes on in all of my testimonies to mans’ presence in the landscape.  I continue to look for symbols that humanize our existence.  As I grow older the tenuous and fragile nature of our being is of question to me.  I am interested in questioning the permanence and the provocative nature of the spiral of life.  I feel that whatever is here with us is also a traveler in time.  All equally ready for extinction or rebirth.  I will continue to focus on finding the power of the moment and its provocation, while I speak to the relationships of what I know and what I see.    

Mary Manusos