What you need to know:
- Kenyan artist, Mary Collis, responded to the lockdown in the only way she knew how, by painting and sharing her luminous landscapes on Facebook on a daily basis.
- One benefit of seeing Mary’s book, which contains all 244 artworks that she shared publicly in 2020, is reading her captions. Many of them describe the where, when, and why she painted what she did.
That first year of the COVID lockdown was a dreary affair. It was a struggle for many people just to find a good reason to get out of bed.
Simple things began to matter more, like bright colors splashed onto a virtual canvas and gardens filled with rainbow outbursts of flowers, grasses, and trees.
Kenyan artist, Mary Collis, responded to the lockdown in the only way she knew how, by painting and sharing her luminous landscapes on Facebook on a daily basis.
‘Lifting the Day’ was the name she gave to her daily dose of a single exquisite painting shared on social media.
It was a stroke of genius and generosity to both friend and stranger who hadn’t known her bright and brilliant paintings before. It didn’t matter to her how the public received them or even if they saw them. She was simply hopeful that by bringing out both old and new pieces, an online audience might feel the uplifting spirit that had inspired the work in the first place.
Mary put her paintings online for 244 marvelous days, and then finally decided to stop. Not that she had come to an end to her artistic expression or to the works she could have shared. But it was time.
It was a sad time for some of us who had experienced the daily delight of seeing her impressions of a Limuru Tea Plantation or her light studies of False Bay in Cape Town or her multiple perspectives of the riotous colors that filled her ‘Erica’s Garden’ series.
Fortunately, the book publisher Unicorn got wind of Mary’s online art exhibition and contacted the artist to see if she’d like her story and her art shared in a book?
‘Lifting the Day: lockdown exhibition’ was launched in Nairobi last Friday, November 26 to the delight of a ballroom-full of book lovers, family, and friends.
The room itself was filled with some of the artist’s most prized paintings, reflective of her dazzling use of color, light, and nature. Most of her artworks are of Kenyan settings, each one luminous with equatorial light.
Tourism hasn’t taken advantage of Mother Nature’s magnificent color schemes that she brings forth in many of Kenya’s most stunning gardens. Mary’s book should go some distance to draw attention to the natural beauty and eye-smacking realism found in gardens like the artist’s dear friend, former fashion designer, the late Erica Boswell.
Mary discovered abstract expressionism when she was still working as an interior decorator, and realized being a painter was a better fit for her professionally. Since then, she’s exhibited all over Kenya and overseas. Her works are collected in both private and public places internationally.
The global reach of her art hadn’t been known by the artist until she began receiving messages from happy owners of her art. Many of them sent images of paintings they’d either bought or been given by the artist over the years. Several of them appear in ‘Lifting the Day.’
One extra benefit of seeing Mary’s book, which contains all 244 artworks that she shared publicly in 2020, is reading her captions. Many of them describe the where, when, and why she painted what she did. She may even say who owns the painting and where it currently stays. Her intimate style of communication is conversational, as if she’s speaking to you, the viewer, like a good friend who deserves to know her wonderful anecdotal stories.
The other advantage of having the book is that the brightness and the beauty of Kenyan colors and light are right at one’s fingertips.
At the book launch, Mary made crystal clear how much she owed to her darling daughter, the award-winning photographer Mia. It was Mia who helped her assemble the minimum 244 high resolution images which were not conveniently located on one single art-filled flash disk. And it was her devoted spouse Alan who helped her with the proofreading of her texts, her storytelling about each painting that brings each picture even more mental light.
Like her favorite abstract expressionists, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack, and Joan Mitchell, Mary values spontaneity and freedom. She’s also inspired by the beauty that she sees and has the gift of ability to express how that beauty makes her feel. It’s that gift which is contained in her newest version of ‘Lifting the Day.’