Eye of the Beholder

I admit. I'm a sucker for art, especially folk and pop art. While driving down the road in Tallahassee, I past a junk-yard looking place with a sign that read "American Folk Art Museum and Gallery." I stopped and met Missionary Mary L. Proctor, artist and owner.

She's being painting and creating for 10 years, following the death of her grandmother, aunt and uncle - who left her what started as a junk yard. She paints on doors, shutters, metal siding and anything she can get her hands on. She gave me a tour of the grounds. She's pictured with one of her earlier works.

She paints whimsy and emotion into each piece and incorporates buttons, soda cans, dollar bills, anything she can get her hands on, into the work. Each creation is bright and authentic.

Her main inspiration is God along with her grandmother and others who come in and out of her life. Mary's personality is as colorful as her artwork, each bit having a story. We went into one room where a rat sat on top of one her works and listened in. She proudly showed me her creation of all 42 US Presidents in which she crafted for Tallahassee's Spring in the Park celebration along with a book for each President but was told she could not exhibit the pieces because it contained President Andrew Jackson. The City had received a threat against Mary if she exhibited because of that piece.

She pointed out a tower of bicycles. Those bikes ended up there because people did think she was crazy and began tossing old bikes onto the property. She stacked them up to create a tower with a cut out of the Statue of Liberty holding a baby. She said it signifies that women keep the United States together and bicycles represent individuals. Even though not in perfect condition, we keep going and will triumph.

Sadly, she said not many of the locals stop and visit her gallery. She's waiting for some wealthy benefactor to come along and help clean up the grounds and provide a proper venue to display her work. I plan to see Mary again and she's worth meeting while visiting Tallahassee.