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A Conversation with Mary Edna Fraser

For the past several years during March – Women’s History Month – The National Museum of Women in the Arts has been asking the question: Can you name 5 women artists? The campaign calls attention to the fact that women remain underrepresented in museums, galleries, and auction houses. The Gibbes will participate in this initiative by featuring several women artists in our collection here on the blog throughout the month!

This week, Mary Edna Fraser shares some insights and influences on her artistic career. Fraser is based in Charleston but has worked and traveled across the globe. Her signature medium, batik on silk, allows her to share her message of stewardship and conservation of the environment. Fraser achieves the detailed and exquisite beauty of the landscapes she creates by photographing the land from her family’s vintage airplane, and then translating them to batiks on silk.

1. What woman in your life has been influential in your career as an artist?

My girl scout leader in Fayetteville, NC was an artist. Our meetings were creative right into cadets. Mrs. Mumau was a landscape painter and I have one of her pieces to cherish.

2. What advice would you give to women who are pursuing a career in the arts?

Go for it women! It is an engaging and interactive as a career. I started running a gallery on Hilton Head Island called the Fox Grape in the 70s. It helped to learn the business of art. The Halsey family all showed at the gallery plus the 10 of us from Charleston.

3. If you could meet one female artist, living or deceased, who would that be, and why?

Georgia O’Keeffe because of the way she lived and her use of color. She was ahead of her time and painted her surroundings never tiring of the environment.

4. Do you have one specific work that you’ve created that has special significance to you, more so than others?

Probably Above Mobile Bay, 21’ x 30’ batik on silk sculpture for the National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico is the most challenging commission to date. The three sails in the atrium were from made from 7 individual 45” wide heavy silks cut on the bias and sewn together. I enjoyed researching in an ultralight float plane.

5. What has been your biggest challenge as a woman in the arts?

Having babies and continuing to be produce art was not easy. Pregnancy and breast feeding were pauses but my best creations.

Fraser at work.

-Published March 8, 2019

-Top image: Mary Edna Fraser

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