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ArtSpotlight

Mary Jane Volkmann
Artist

Mary Jane Volkmann, artistFrom the time she was a young child, Mary Jane Volkmann knew she wanted to be an artist. She remembers the happiest of times sitting at a small table in the kitchen with her paper and crayons, inventing and illustrating stories while her mother cooked. Throughout high school in Cleveland, Ohio, her spare time was spent on music, writing, volunteer activities and painting. She undertook several commissions including the illustration of a biology text book and won several art competitions and awards. After a semester in Europe she returned to study art education at university.

 

Mary Jane's adventures continued when she traveled to Africa in 1974. While living in Swaziland she was commissioned to paint portraits of King Sobhuza II for his 75th birthday as well as postage stamps for Swaziland and coin designs for several different countries. Moving to South West Africa (now Namibia) in 1979, Mary Jane worked as a cartographer, producing full color maps in various scales and setting up and developing a cartographic department for the Geological Survey of SWA/Namibia. Upon winning a national competition to illustrate a traditional tale, she was commissioned to do paintings for a book of stories for educational reading books to be used in the school system in Namibia.

 

In 1992 Mary Jane was invited by Gamsberg Macmillan Publishers to produce 30 paintings depicting current lifestyles in Namibia among the traditional peoples of the country. After Namibian Independence development projects were rapidly changing the face of Namibia and the publishers wanted to preserve in a body of artwork a historical record of the current lifestyles of the diverse peoples across the Namibian nation before they were forever changed or lost. Having traveled quite extensively throughout the country in her work with the Baha'i Faith and with her land surveying husband, Mary Jane was ideally suited for this commission. The book, "Glimpses of Namibian Life: A Moment in Time", which Mary Jane authored, was published in 1997. A German edition was also published and the original paintings purchased and hung in a permanent display at a private museum.

 

During her years in Namibia Mary Jane designed five series of postage stamps. One of her stamps was voted as 1998's "most popular stamp" of Namibia by collectors world wide. In 1999, four Namibian stamps designed that year, including one of Mary Jane's, were awarded the "Most Beautiful Stamps from Africa and the Middle East" and third place for the "Most Beautiful Stamps in the World" at the World Stamp Cup Competition in Paris, France. Again in 2003 at the same competition Mary Jane's "Traditional Women of Namibia" stamp sheets won third place for the "World's Most Beautiful Souvenir Stamp Sheets."

 

Aside from commissioned work, Mary Jane has been actively involved in education and development work. She was hired by the National Art Gallery of Namibia to run a workshop for teachers of art in the Kavango and Caprivi regions of Namibia. She worked to help them find ways to teach art and inspire students where supplies or finances are limited, at best. She gave workshops to students at schools, taught art privately and chaired a community arts initiative. Mary Jane also co-founded the Tsumeb Arts and Crafts Center in northern Namibia, an educational and charitable trust with a regional center for the development of the skills of talented Namibians. The Center's mission is to help artists and crafts persons develop, promote and market their arts, crafts and skills in an attempt to provide them with a sustainable income.

 

In 2002, after 28 years in Africa, Mary Jane, her German/Namibian husband and their two sons moved to Gainesville, Florida, where they now reside. Mary Jane now travels the countryside, painting in oils, acrylics and watercolors the landscapes, people and nature around her. When weather or inspiration dictate, she can be found working in her studio on paintings of the diverse people and places she has encountered in her travels over the years. She has designed murals, undertaken private painting commissions and given painting lessons and demonstrations. Her paintings have been shown in group and solo exhibitions at museums, private galleries and public and corporate venues, and she has been invited to participate in outdoor painting events such as the annual "Artists Painting in the Gardens" weekend at the International Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot. Mary Jane also gives lectures and audio/visual presentations about her life and adventures in Africa.

 

When asked to describe the process of her painting, Mary Jane explains: "When I paint, I immerse myself in the contemplation of beauty. I strive to explore and uncover the hidden yet manifest harmony and inter-relatedness which I see existing in the wonderful diversity of all things, from the tiniest detail to the widest expanse of the sky. I try and capture the expression which each part of nature or each face seems to impart."

Click Image to Enlarge

All images above copyright Mary Jane Volkmann

 


 




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