Above: "Art Heals" by "Missionary" Mary Proctor. Located in Kentuck Art Center's Permanent Collection
Though Missionary Mary Proctor was born in June of 1960, she did not begin painting until the mid-nineties. In 1994, three of Mary's family members were trapped and killed in a fire from which Mary escaped. A year later, she received a spiritual message, "The door is the way." Following this calling, she painted three doors in memory of her family, placed them in her yard, and caught the attention of a collector. These first creations by Mary led to a show in New York that solidified to her that creating art and spreading her message was her calling.
Following this calling, Missionary Mary uses a myriad of materials-buttons, sticks, broken pieces of glass, mirrors, plates, and anything else she can find. For Mary, putting together items that are unwanted or broken represents the process of mending. Painting stories from her life, Mary creates work filled with lessons which she learned from her grandmother who raised her.
In addition to creating, Mary owns Noah's Art Daily Flea Market, and in 2011, she also opened the Mary's Visions Folk Art Museum and Gallery in Tallahassee, Florida.
1999, Missionary Mary was featured on the cover of Raw Vision magazine, and in 2005, her work was included in the "On Their Own--Selected Self-Taught Artists" at the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum. She is featured in the permanent collections of the American Visionary Museum, the High Museum of Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others.
In 2015, she was voted Folk Artist of the Year by the Folk Art Society of America. Missionary Mary is a longtime exhibitor at the Kentuck Festival of the Arts and had a solo show at Kentuck's Museum Gallery, as well as the Hotel Indigo Gallery, in 2018.
Inspired by recent programming at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, beginning June 5th Kentuck Art Center is dedicating ten days of online content to the Black artists in our Permanent Collection. While Kentuck Art Center cannot address the full complexity of systemic racism on our own, we can gain perspective and a sense of purpose by listening to the voices of artists we are proud to have in our collection.
Kentuck's Permanent Collection holds artworks of significance to Kentuck's history, as well as the American Folk Art movement. The objects collected by Kentuck physically document the narrative of American Folk Art, as well as Kentuck's Festival, Studio, and Exhibiting artists. The objects in Kentuck's Permanent Collection form a history that is the basis for research, exhibition, interpretation, and community engagement.
Story compiled from various sources including Kentuck's Archives, Roots Up Gallery and Main Street Gallery