Totems & stories: Exhibit by Mary Ann Casey on display at Johnson Center

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, August 31, 2016

submitted Photo/ Former Trojan, Mary Ann Casey, is again exhibiting at the Johnson Center for the Arts. Her exhibit, “Totems and Stories,” focuses on the connection of places, people and times.

submitted Photo/
Former Trojan, Mary Ann Casey, is again exhibiting at the Johnson Center for the Arts. Her exhibit, “Totems and Stories,” focuses on the connection of places, people and times.


“Totems and Stories.” An exhibition by Mary Ann Casey.

Enough said.

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If no more were said about “Totem and Stories,” enough would be said to keep the doors of the Johnson Center for the Arts swinging from the opening day of the exhibit until it closes on October 22.

Vicki Pritchett, JCA executive director, said she is excited and honored to have Casey return to the Johnson Center.

“We had written a grant around San Francisco artist, James Leonard, but he became ill and was unable to show his work,” Pritchett said. “We had only two months to find another artist and I immediately thought about Mary Ann. She is a former Trojan and her worked is highly respected and very popular and we had been planning to have her back. This was an ideal time.”

Casey agreed to do the show but, it would not be an exhibit of work that she had previously done. She wanted to create an entirely new body of work for this exhibit.

“We were thrilled,” Pritchett said. “And, we are even more thrilled now that the exhibit is up. This is an outstanding exhibit. She has included paintings, installations and clay creations. It is an amazing exhibit. It is Mary Ann at her very best. It speaks to all of us.”

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For Casey, the creation of “Totems and Stories” was the continuation of a journey to who she is, to who we all are.

“I have wanted to do totems for a long time,” she said. “This was a wonderful opportunity. A totem is a symbol of a family or lineage. It is the future and it is the past. We are all connected. We have to coexist and we have to learn to live together in harmony. We must surrender ourselves and just let it happen. The totem is about connection and balance and harmony.”

And, the stories?

“We are forgetting the stories and the importance of telling stories,” she said. “We are letting someone else tell the stories when we should be tell our own.”

In each of Mary Ann’s paintings, some 30 of them in “Totems and Stories,” there is a story. It’s Casey’s story and it’s the story of everyone who views the painting.

“I’m a product of the rural South of days gone by,” she said. “That place and those times have shaped me. I feel a strong connection to those places and those times. And, life is all about being connected, to the past, to right now and to the future. I paint what I feel. It comes through me. I honor others. My art is not about being judgmental. It’s about being truthful.”

And, the portraits that Casey paints are people that she does not know but, again, knows so well.

There is a kinship among them that even Casey can’t explain.

“They all have the same expressions,” she said. “I have tried to change the expression but they all come out the same way. The expressions are not joyous. They are not sorrowful. The people seem to be content, yet hopeful and I think that’s the way we all should be – content with our past and hopeful of our future.”

Casey said she is committed to love and to the earth and that connection — the spiritual with the physical — is the way she chooses to embrace life.

“The clay bowls in ‘Totems and Stories’ are symbolic of our being empty vessels and coming with the gifts that God has given us and embracing those gifts as blessings from God and using them to bring peace, harmony and love to each other and the world.”

That is the essence of Mary Ann Casey’s “Totems and Stories.” That is the essence of the artist.