Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Mary Boyd Ellis (1930-2009)

As a newly published author one of my first tasks has been to recognize the many people who assisted my writing and publishing. That has put me in touch with some folks I'd not contacted in the four years since relocating to Washington State. Renewing acquaintances has been fun.

It can also bring some unwelcome news. I learned that my painting teacher, Mary Boyd Ellis died a couple of years ago at age 78. I took lessons from Mary during the last two years I lived in Window Rock, Arizona. Saturdays I would drive into Gallup, New Mexico to run town errands in the morning and in the afternoon I would join several other students in Mary's studio. She was a wonderful teacher and a generous friend. I have fond memories of those Saturday afternoons.

Despite all of Mary's talent as a teacher, I did not become much of a painter. She did, however, influence my book in a very important way. Part of her instruction was to have me sketch as a way of learning to understand shapes and shadows, form and perspective. Those lessons led me to carry a sketchbook on the Appalachian Trail and many of those sketches are prominently displayed along with the text. "Little windows through the words" as one reader described them.

On my return to the southwest from Maine in 2002, I spent a few days in Gallup and, of course, visited Mary. She was delighted to see the sketches and I would have been delighted to show her the finished product. Unfortunately, the delay in getting the book published precluded that opportunity. Even so, Mary is still very much alive in those sketches and I will always cherish her memory.

I last saw Mary in 2007. Her health was deteriorating but she still lived independently, still taught painting and was continuing a longstanding series of paintings based on TS Eliot's poem, "Ash Wednesday". The first of those paintings were completed when I was her student and she showed the series at an opening in Gallup in February 2008, just over a year before her death. The story about the show mentions that she had begun work on a new series which tells me that she most likely never stopped painting.

Mary faced numerous life challenges but managed to become the painter she wanted to be. In the process she added a great deal to many other lives. One was sufficiently inspired to set her paintings to music as a tribute. I cannot do that but I can certainly remember her influence and kindness.

Godspeed, Mary.



Blogger Mercury Ellis said...

Hi RezDog, Mary was my grandmother. It means a lot to read your heartfelt tribute to her. She was my first art teacher and instilled a love and appreciation of the visual world which continues to this day. It is very comforting to know that she touched your life in this way. I wish you the best.

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