Louise Lamar-Fuller and her husband Winston were kind enough to write the following review.
Mary Furbee was a beloved teacher at WVU, a writer with a long and admirable publication list, a great and generous spirit, and with a remarkable talent for friendship. She died almost a year ago this April, not quite fifty, leaving her family and a host of admirers bereaved.
Though I knew Mary was a writer, I didn’t know she was also a painter, until her husband Mike called and asked if I would look at the paintings and perhaps write about them. Mary was self-taught and had only begun during the last two years of her life to paint, exploring color, pattern, and her materials of paint, dye, and found materials. I wasn’t prepared for the quality of the work he showed me, vibrant with color and movement.
Most of Mary’s paintings have a structured composition, but there is nothing static about the impressions one gets. Grids, crosses, X’s, circles cohabit the field, but they are so exuberantly presented—with overlays of saturated colors: purple and mustard, pink, red, blue in unlikely but happy cooperation—that the effect is of both depth and energy. In many of the paintings, a grid of some sort underpins the wonderfully free marks and brush-strokes, but often the grid is on the diagonal, or not centered, or receding to reveal the ranked square openings, each different, between the crossbars. Her compositions are like brilliantly cropped photos.
Grids and the spaces between them, circles made of concentric circles, lines laid over the structure of squares and circles—the description sounds static, but the results are not. Mary used strong saturated colors, she outlined shapes with loose lines, and she superimposed dynamic slender splashes of color atop the larger shapes. It is exciting and cheering and intriguing to see these paintings. Nothing is disguised; everything is in motion.
Mike has created, as a memorial to Mary, a beautifully printed small book of her work that contains over 40 of her paintings. In the back of the book is a DVD of approximately 100 paintings that includes all the paintings in the book as well as 60 or so additional images. Each image has been painstakingly scanned, color corrected and digitized. And they are luminous. Each image stays on the screen for 30 seconds or more, letting the viewer really receive them. The DVD runs for close to an hour, and I found that these images just entered into me, in a way that was more memorable even than the framed paintings or the book’s reproductions. The succession of these images put me into a stunned silence. They are large and seemingly backlit, accompanied by a sound track of haunting and also celebratory music, composed and played by Mike and a small group of his long-time musician friends.
Nothing in this body of Mary Furbee’s work is merely pleasant. These paintings, though small in scale, are large in invention wedded to both discipline and freedom. They are cheering, thought-provoking. And some are dark and haunting. I am grateful to have known her well enough to see that her paintings reflect Mary’s spirit and her accomplishments in the rest of her generous life.
Mike has assembled an exhibit of Mary’s paintings soon to go up at the Monongalia Art Center. Approximately twenty-five of her paintings can be seen during the day at the MAC’s Benedum Gallery, from Tuesday, April 5, through Friday, April 22. There will be both an opening and a closing reception on April 8 and April 22, from 6:30 to 9:00 pm, during which the DVD will be playing in the theater. The book of paintings, including the DVD, will be available for purchase throughout the dates of the exhibit.
Louise Lamar-Fuller – February, 2005