Review of Mary Quiros new book by Linda Stall
Published in Fayette County Record, September 2019
I first interviewed Mary Quiros in 2013 for her first one-woman show at Fayetteville’s Red & White Gallery. Opening the door to her home feels like opening a present and I’m curious to see what’s inside. Her pieces for this show line the hallway leading to her studio. It is a gift box of color and images, one after another. All different in color and subject, but with a common thread: Mary’s style, her fingerprint. We sit and talk about her show opening September 7 at the Red & White Gallery, and the release of her exciting new book, a retrospective of her life and career. Part biography and part images, it is a comprehensive look at Mary’s life, her early works and experiences and includes many of the pieces in this show. Oversized and printed in luscious colors, it is filled with selected images of her work from the beginning of her career through this upcoming show. There are also pictures of her first shows in Laredo, her fellow student artists including her mother, Maria Leyendecker, and her treasured mentors and teachers. It is the perfect complement to the show.
Beginning in Laredo
Mary’s story begins in Laredo, where she was raised. In 1966 she married Evan Quiros, an Air Force fighter pilot. When Evan was sent to Vietnam, Mary’s mother signed her up for art classes. Mrs. Leyendecker was determined that Mary “was not going to sit around in Laredo and worry about her husband, watching the war on television.” Together they took oil painting classes from Elvira Salinas. It was just the beginning of a series of remarkable teachers that would influence Mary throughout her career.
Now, Evan and Mary Quiros live outside of Fayetteville, Texas. Evan has a large shop for his many projects which include wood working, stained glass and vintage automobiles. Mary works and teaches in a light-filled studio in their home. Since the first time I visited, her studio has nearly doubled in size to allow room for her painting and the students she teaches. The walls are covered with her work and the work of others she admires.
Teachers & Mentors
Throughout her career, Mary has been influenced by several remarkable artists and teachers. The first great influence on Mary’s work was teacher Dorothy Bertine. Bertine, a member of the second wave of the California Watercolor School, had a huge impact on Mary’s work. It was Bertine who suggested that Mary invite well known watercolor artist Milford Zornes to Laredo to paint and teach a workshop. He would later return and teach a second workshop in Mary’s home.
Zornes was a member of the original California Watercolor School along with Millard Sheets, Diego Rivera and others who painted in the 1930s through the 1950s. Their work was part of the WPA Arts program and their distinctive murals appear in public buildings and post offices of that period. Like others in the California School, Zornes painted outdoor scenes in deep, saturated colors, but with a darker palette than Quiros personally prefers. “Men choose darker colors,” she told me, “their palettes are muddier.” Her pieces are brighter she says, “letting the light come through the paper.”
Mary’s third mentor was Rob Erdle, who taught at University of North Texas in Denton and was head of the watercolor department. He also led painting excursions, taking groups to Amsterdam and Ireland to paint outdoors en plein air, to be inspired by the scenery. He impressed upon the students a sense of urgency. They only had so much time at each location and had to capture the scene quickly. It is a skill that impacts her work today, the ability to capture an image quickly and put it on the paper. Erdle is also the teacher who encouraged Mary not to limit herself with small canvases, but to “think big.” Erdle inspired Mary to paint larger pieces, evident in this latest show at the Red & White.
Her work for this show is a palette of rich reds, cool blues and warm golden tones. One piece in icy blues, is magical and fairy tale-like. They are the view from her window or the creeks she passes in Fayette County, or a flower brought by her husband. She brings her own perspective to each piece, creating a warm breeze in the grass, a reflection of trees in the pools and ponds. Landscapes and florals are side by side with abstracts. “Patchwork Sunflower” evokes a quilt, with squares and sunflowers that mimic collage, but is done exclusively with paint. “Hot” is just that, an abstract of fiery reds and yellows using an especially intense watercolor. “Dark Beauty” is a floral of deep purples and reds, so dark and mysterious that it becomes almost abstract. “Enchanted Forest” is classic Quiros, taking a landscape scene of trees in a forest and changing the colors from traditional greens and browns to unexpected yellows and pinks. It works. And if you go through her book closely, you’ll find a gladiola painted once in yellow, and at the Quiros’ discretion, the same gladiola again in red. When asked she says, “It just needed to be red!”
Her skilled use of color brings the rose at the center of “Forever Love” out of the canvas, into the room. The single rose was a spontaneous gift from her husband, she tells me, “I needed to do something with it quickly”. She chose to paint this piece in a square, a less common choice, centering the lush rose.
“It’s different, working with square paper, filling the corners,” she says, “the corners all need to be made interesting.” I ask if she can see the finished work before she begins? “Never,” she answers emphatically. “This just sort of came out.”
Quiros often incorporates watery reflections in her paint-ings. At first the brush strokes may appear to be random, just abstract dashes of color. Soon the viewer makes out subtle shapes, perhaps a branch hanging over a pond. Going through her new book I was pleased to see two of my personal favorites, images she painted after a trip to Amsterdam. At first, they are just the canal with floating leaves. Looking closer, the water reveals reflections of the surrounding buildings, adding a dimension to the painting. In a second image the surprise is a rowboat. In this show, “By the Water” brings the viewer into the reflections of a nearby creek, drawing the viewer in to look a little closer, to stay with the painting just a little bit longer.
As an art history student, many hours are spent in dark lecture halls studying projected images of classic paintings. They appear in a consistent format, no hint as to the original size and the artists are nearly always long gone. It is an amazing opportunity to meet an artist in person, to walk into a gallery and see the paintings firsthand, to feel the impact of the artist’s choices of color and technique. To have the artist present to talk about their work, what influenced them and how they felt is an opportunity not to be missed.
Mary Quiros, Recent Paintings and Book Signing at the Red & White Gallery, Fayetteville, Texas, Artist’s reception September 7, 2019, 4-7 p.m.