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Mix master: Decatur artist rebels against retirement

By Austin Jackson | Published Wednesday, October 24, 2018
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Mixing It Up

MIXING IT UP – Mary Boswell, a Decatur-based artist, will display her collection of mixed media work at the 2nd Annual Art Beat festival 10 a.m. Saturday in downtown Bridgeport. Messenger photo by Austin Jackson

With a shock of pink and white hair atop her head and clay shavings on her fingers, Decatur artist Mary Boswell retreats to her mixed media masterpiece of running water, pine trees and spray-painted fences.

The studio, the kiln and the deadline leaves her needing some fresh air.

She finds it sipping her coffee and overlooking the chaotic swatches of spray paint and mirrors arranged by her, transforming the yard into a piece of art.

This piece, her oasis, is just one of many Boswell has created in the last two years.

Another Peak

ANOTHER PEAK – Mary Boswell, a Decatur-based artist, lived most of her life teaching art to high schoolers. She retired from teaching two years ago and has found a new prime in her work as an artist. Messenger photo by Austin Jackson

Retirement from teaching art has brought Boswell into her prime, she said, channeling frenetic inspiration toward a new peak in art.

And after a few gulps of joe, the 64-year-old artist returns to her work – capturing the world around her on any medium she can find.

She retired from teaching art in Fort Worth in 2016, a career in which she’d worked for decades. But after years of teaching, the rebel from birth raged against retirement, rediscovering her voice.

“I thought I was leaving the best years of my life because I love those kids and I love teaching,” Boswell said. “I was wrong. I’m in the best years of my life. I really am. I am at the point where I’m on my own terms. I get to decide what I want to be when I grow up.”

This weekend Boswell will be taking what’s so personal, her art, into the public eye at the Art Beat festival in Bridgeport.

It will be the first festival of her career. There she will display a mixed media collage of clay, canvas, bugs on bark, and other pieces at her booth on Halsell Street.

“I was not an artist who taught; I was the opposite. I’ve been in galleries, I’ve curated shows, I’ve done all that but it was never my sole focus,” Boswell said. “My objective was always in the realm of education. I used to not have much art – it’s all I have now.”

While many Wise County artists tend to feature cowboys and ranch life, Boswell flourishes in a more naturalistic, modern approach.

In some of her work, she blends graffiti and nature. At times, juxtaposing the two.

Boswell discovered an appreciation for graffiti while teaching students at Carter-Riverside High School.

Some students were getting caught and fined up to $10,000 for spray painting buildings and bridges, she said.

So she decided to capture that passion and teach it in the classroom. In doing so, she hoped to redefine what people thought of graffiti and see it as street art.

Her students were commissioned for a mural. Instead of getting fined, they were celebrated by the city.

“It’s a $10,000 fine and a felony for these kids living on the streets in Fort Worth to take a Sharpie to a building or wall, and our kids were getting busted,” she said. “Our effort was really to reverse the stereotypes of what people think of inner city kids and graffiti. It’s art.”

Though teaching is behind her, she still implements spray paint and graffiti into her current work. And to this day, she still invites former students to her home where their work sits alongside hers.

As a teacher, she taught her students to look at the world around them and find art.

It’s something she lives by.

And every morning, despite living in a less urban area with more wide open spaces, she finds inspiration in the world around her.

She doesn’t paint or sculpt cowboys and ranch houses like many artists in Wise County. She paints wasp nests orange and covers them in a glaze. She does portraits of faces interlaced with spray paint and graffiti.

She is the yin to Wise County’s yang in the art world.

It’s Boswell’s take on the world, and it will be on display, alongside the many artists in the Greater Wise Arts Alliance, at the Art Beat festival in downtown Bridgeport Saturday.

“I look outside; I look at nature,” she said. “Art is real. Real personal. It should be. I think it’s an extension of who you are, truly.”

FESTIVAL TO HIGHLIGHT LOCAL ART

Bridgeport’s got the beat, the Art Beat that is.

The 2nd Annual Art Beat festival is Saturday in downtown Bridgeport.

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., artists will be giving demonstrations, artwork will be for sale, and there will be street performers. Local wineries will be featured, and downtown restaurants will be open for a taste of local menus.

The full schedule includes the following art demonstrations:

9 a.m. – Bennie Wood

10 a.m. – Mary Boswell

11 a.m. – Kim McElroy

1 p.m. – Julie Schooling

2 p.m. – Linda Cowell

3 p.m. – Suzanne Burch

Performances include:

9 a.m. – Bridgeport High School choir

9:30 a.m. – Bridgeport High School theater group

10 a.m. – Stephen Starnes Martial Arts

11 a.m. – Dale Morris fiddle extraordinaire

11:30 a.m. – Bridgeport High School choir

noon – Silhouette Dance Company

12:30 p.m. – Bridgeport High School theater group

There is still artist booth space available. To reserve a space, call Kim McElroy, 940-393-2567, with the Greater Wise Arts Alliance.

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