Mary Jane Q Cross

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Mary Jane Q Cross

United States

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“An Artist worth Knowing” 2022

By Michelle Nichols Dock
Gallery Coordinator, Tempe Center for the Arts

Mary Jane’s paintings stand on their own with or without her biography which is an inspirational story about faith and coping mechanisms. However, her personal story is in some ways inseparable from her current work. Her biography sounds normal at first. She was born in 1951 and studied art at the Worcester Art Museum School in MA. in the early 70s. Like other “closet Realists” of the time, she didn’t fit into the mix of expressionists and looked to the past for guidance.

When her career was at a high point, Mary Jane and her husband were hit by lightning in a freak accident. As if the traumatic experience wasn’t enough, she was treated with a medication that caused a severe side effect, a tardive tremor, which affects the right side of her body. It is permanent and prevents her from wielding a traditional brush in her painting hand. For 5 ½ years, she struggled to make art and experimented with other medias. This didn’t fulfill the void of painting. She met the challenge by completely re-training herself to paint with her fingers. She invented 12 prosthetic devices that helped in the process, to design and fabricate a shoulder harness that allows her to steady a brush for small detail work.

Mary Jane’s story isn’t without frustration, sadness and grief. But she’s probably one of the first to tell you that creating art and connecting with people is a recipe for a blessed life. I asked Mary Jane about sharing information about her disability:

I do not mind the personal nature of the tremor. It is pretty obvious and I have learned to not skirt it but deal with it head on. Artists used to almost stand back from me as though it were contagious, and I could see that what had happened to me was on the artists worst fear list.

I am the one to calm them and allay fears that have not happened yet or to show them how deal with what you cannot change. This life is never a straight flat road.”

Whether she is connecting with a patron or with another artist, Mary Jane’s art work and life philosophy carries a “kind of magic”. I witnessed this connection happen while the painting “Gently Letting Go” was on display at the Tempe Center for the Arts. People would stop and admire it for a few moments, read the poem attached to it and look up with a contented smile, never knowing how the work was made or the story behind the artist. One simple question would change the experience for those people in seconds. “Did you notice the unusual paint strokes?” Seeing that look of awe and connection happen between visitors, an artwork and an artist is special. It is an intuitive, truthful connection between people. Without sounding too hokey, it’s at the heart of why art really does matter.

* This statement has been provided directly by the artist in association to their 16th International ARC Salon entries. This content has not been edited for typos or grammatical errors and has not been vetted for accuracy.