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This week’s Thought Row podcast guest is Mary-Ann Prack. We discuss with her life at home, and her thoughts on the sculptors creative process and insights on her career as a clay sculptor.
Mary-Ann was born in Ontario, Canada. As a third generation member of an architectural engineering family, both art and architecture were a strong component of her early life experiences and surroundings. She began her formal fine art education at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, continued at the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale and Florida Atlantic University, where she studied both fine art and interior design.
Mary-Ann became a full time visual artist in 1986 and for over thirty five years has worked with clay as a pure sculpture medium. There is nothing traditional about her approach to or use of clay in terms of subject, design, scale or glazing techniques. Prack creates sculpture that is distinctive, precise, and with geometric purity of surface, color, and form. She hand builds each piece using a specially formulated clay that has a stone-like hardness, strength and consistency suitable for her large-scale clay constructions. Prack began painting in 2004 after an illness briefly left her unable to do the heavy work sculpture requires. Since then painting has become as important to her artistic expression as sculpture. Though different in approach, the energy, spirit and her distinctive artistic presence is most evident whenever her sculpture and paintings are experienced together. Mary-Ann’s home, studio and sculpture garden are located in the mountain community of Jefferson, NC.
Links for Mary-Ann Prack
R: That’s right Inci…I know people that want to think more creatively, will benefit from our weekly show. What are we discussing today?
I: Today we’re going to be speaking with Mary Ann Praak. She is a formidable talent in the world of sculpting clay…I’m sure everyone will enjoy listening to her.
R: This is going to be very interesting. But before we go onto the quote of the week…I have a question for you. -ask your question
R: Now how about the quote for the week
I: “A sculptor is a person who is interested in the shape of things, a poet in words, a musician by sounds.” Henry Moore
R: Speaking of Henry Moore, I remember when I was photographing a rather prestigious collection of art that was privately owned by a very wealthy individual. His collection was spread out though his rather large home. My assistants and I decided to go outside and see some daylight. And right smack in the center of his swimming pool was a very large Henry Moore sculpture. I think I was more impressed by that than the Reniors, Picassos, Warhol and others that were in the home.
I: The life of a sculptor has always fascinated me. It seems like they need a lot of space and special tools to build their works of art.
R: We think about sculpting almost exclusively as being works in marble or stone.
I: Sculptural works of art go back literally thousands of years. Remember the Villandorf Venus Woman? I don’t know if you all realize this but this sculpture was only 4.4”
Discuss – Effigy
R: As I have had the opportunity to look at sculptures, I think I’ve learned to appreciate modern sculptures more than I have in the past.
I: I agree Rod…They’re very tactile and require almost a craftsman approach in the beginning and then they end up as original works of art that people can ponder.
R: Another thing that I find interesting is when you look at sculptural pieces from the Roman times, they’re all just plain white marble. But the reality is, they were all colorfully painted. Hard to imagine.
I: It’s hard to imagine that we mostly think of marble sculptures as being all white and that is what is most familiar and acceptable.
R: We know that most sculptors learn their craft by sculpting in clay. After that some work in metal, wood, glass or stone. I’ve had very little experience in working with any of those mediums. What about you Inci?
I: I’ve worked with clay and I love the way it feels in your hands. And how it responds to different tools. After that the firing process is where it gets pretty tricky and complicated.
R: You can imagine how much more complicated it gets when you have to create a cast and then take it to a foundry where they pour bronze or copper.
Discuss – Henry Moore, foundry
I: I know you and I have wanted to chat with a very talented sculptor.
R: Yes, and one that we both think is extremely original in their work. In fact I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite so beautiful.
I: Well today, our guest Mary Ann Praak and she is one of those sculptors that works in clay.
R: Plus, she is very talented when it comes to glazing. Which to me is the trickiest part of the process.
R: Mary Ann welcome to the Thought Row Podcast both Inci and I have been really looking forward to chatting with you.
I: Hi Mary Ann so good to have you with us today.
I: You are a very creative and talented artist, and we are excited to talk to you about your career as a sculptor. But before we begin, we like to start our show by asking what you had for breakfast.
I: You live in a beautiful part of the U.S.. Tell us a little bit about where you live.
R: Mary Ann your sculptures are extremely original. I know Inci and I really enjoy looking at your work both on social media and on your website. Tell us how you came to develop this unique but yet formidable sculpturing style?
I: We understand that you were born into an architects family…how did this influence your decision to be an artist?
R: Did you ever assist any other sculptors while you were developing your style?
R: When it comes to scale, your sculptures can be quite large. What are some of the challenges that you face in each of the sizes of sculptures… you create?
I: What is the principal material you use to make your sculptures?
I: How long does it take to make a sculpture for you?
R: It appears to me… With your sculptures starting out as abstract clay figures, how do you manage to create ones that can withstand the outside elements during the 4-seasons?
I: When we have seen photos of the interior of your home where you have many pieces of art displayed, which I might add are beautifully displayed…Rod and I have noticed you have a favorite book on your table. Tell us about that book and what it means to you.
R: We know you have a loving family. How has their support been for you when you are in the process of creating?
I: We know from our own personal experience that creating any work of art requires solitude. Tell us about your creative routine.
R: Every artist has their own creative sanctuary. Tell us about yours.
I: I know this is a tough question, but what is your philosophy about the value of sculptural art?
R: It’s hard for some people to understand the amount of work that goes into making a sculpture, especially if you’re working with clay and similar materials. Your works have a commanding presence…what do you attribute that to?
I: If someone wanted to pursue a career as a sculptor, what would be your advice.
R: We know that you have created some 3-D wall art that looks like a combination of sculpting and painting…is this something you are experimenting with?
I: Most homes have a family room…tell us about yours?
R: Do you ever have doubts about what you’re doing creatively?
I: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
R: What do you want to be remembered by?
I: If you could sit on a park bench and chat with anyone from the past, who would it be?
R: Mary Ann, you shared some interesting thoughts and ideas about the art of sculpting. We really appreciate you taking the time for this interview with Inci and I.
I: Also… Just letting everyone know…if you want to know more about Mary Ann Prack and her artwork we will have links in the show notes and also under the show guest tab on Thought Row podcast.com. So everyone can visit Mary Ann’s website and learn more about her and connect with her on social media.
R & I: Thanks and goodbye Mary Ann.