Casey’s Southern roots are the focus of one-woman show

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Features Editor

Mary Ann Casey didn’t grow up in a cultural environment that nurtured art, but she grew up with a passion for art that has brought her to the forefront in the Southern art community.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, a reception will be held in Casey’s honor at the Wiregrass Art Museum in Dothan where her one-woman show, "Southern Images" is on exhibit.

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The show is a homecoming of sorts for Casey, who grew up in nearby Rehobeth.

She grew up working – working in the cotton fields, in the garden plot and doing a dozen other chores assigned to children whose roots were deeply embedded in rural South Alabama.

"One thing about the environment that I grew up in was that I developed a strong work ethic," Casey said. "We had no free lunches and no free books. We bought used books and we took care of them. Before I could drive, I would walk miles to meet the bookmobile. Reading was that important to me. The experiences we had in country schools were very limited. I didn’t grow up around art. All I knew about art was through making posters."

Casey’s mother was a homemaker and, although, she was not visual, she had an artist’s spirit about her.

Casey inherited her mother’s gentleness and insight into life and people and she also was influenced by a man she never knew – her grandfather.

"He was a ‘Renaissance man,’" Casey said of her grandfather. "He was the community vet. He knew all about plants and herbs and he loved to read and tell stories. He loved beautiful things. I think I am a lot like him."

Growing up in the rural Deep South had a great impact on Casey. She was greatly influenced by everything around her,

but she didn’t know how much until she was no longer a part of it.

She married Bud Casey who took her into the exciting, but demanding, world of college football.

Although Casey’s passion was for art, she had been told that she couldn’t make a living at it, so she was content with life as an English teacher – for a while.

"When we were in Fort Worth, there were several major art museums in the city and so many people ‘did’ art," Casey said. "The people there really embraced the arts."

The arts had to come within Casey’s reach before she could embrace them. She put herself in a position for that to happen.

She enrolled in an art course and was fortunate to have an instructor who didn’t try to mold her. She had a style of her own. She was told to "just paint."

"I paint what I feel," Casey said. "I pray. I feel. I see with my mind’s eye."

Casey’s work might best be described as a combination of expressionism and impressionism. "My work is stylized – molded looking," she said. "I love painting minorities. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s not even on a conscious level. It’s just there. From the beginning, it was there."

Casey paints many nationalities. She is fascinated and inspired by Oriental, Spanish, African American, Latin, Creole or Native American people.

"The passion just bubbles up within me for these people," she said. "It’s as though I’ve been a part of them on some subconscious level somewhere."