Friday, December 07, 2007

Artist Feature 6: Mary Chiaramonte

In an age of technological advancement, it is difficult to remember that life can be lived without constant access to our ipod(s), computers and cell phones. The average person is bombarded daily with a million more images than those who lived during the Middle Ages. It also seems that today, many parents spoil their kids with all latest gadgets and promote little human interaction in return. Not very long ago, Mary Chiaramonte’s parents did the exact opposite.

Local artist Mary Chiaramonte was raised the old fashioned way in Harmony, WV, a remote town of no more than 100 residents in the early 1980s. Growing up, Mary and her siblings had no TV and lived off of and worked on the land. They were encouraged to entertain themselves with objects in nature, thereby turning twigs into toys. As a result, Mary was left with the workings of her imagination and observation of the world around her to produce amazing paintings and drawings.

For as long as she could remember, Mary’s interest was in the visual depiction of the human story. As a child attending a Ringling Brothers Show with her family, Mary paid more attention to the people in the audience than the performers on stage. She is the kind of person who enjoys sitting on a park bench and watching the world go by. The thing that drives her day to day is knowing about other people and the lives they lead.

Though some may consider her work to be more on the darker side (due to the artist’s choice of a melancholic color palate), Mary’s heavily lacquered paintings explore the most intimate moments of the human experience. In her unique oeuvre, she “rejoices with those who rejoice and weeps with those who weep.” Mary’s paintings are personal and represent both the reactions of the persons depicted, and her own. Obvious symbolism also occurs in her paintings, such as a heart cut in two, roses and a string of dead fruit. The best part is that no matter what feelings are conveyed, Mary always leaves an air of mystery and personal interpretation in each piece created. This happens when images are cropped, she emphasizes her graphic style and certain body parts are purposely not shown.

One of my favorite works by Mary Chiaramonte is currently featured in NKG’s Third Annual Attainable Art show. Daylights (pictured above: 2007, mixed media, 20 x 16 in.) shows a female torso wearing a black dress from chest down, walking in the middle of a double-yellow lined road. This story takes place at night, and the figure is surrounded by five small, illuminating balls of light. The bottom part of the figure shines while the top morphs into the dark of the night. Given the intriguing cropping of the figure at bust level and a brilliant imagination, one can only begin to surmise the powerful story behind this painting.

Mary once said that she hopes to successfully document the lives of those she comes into contact with in her paintings as a way of doing something worthwhile in life. I think she has done just that. Check out her extraordinary paper-cuts at her official website,

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