Quote and Credit

Quote and Credit


Blind Artist and True Memory Painter Mary Drake Coles

You might have heard the term "memory painter" as a slightly disparaging reference to artists who recreate pleasant rural scenes from the past in a folky manner.  Grandma Moses comes to mind first, of course, but there are many more with varying degrees of skill. 

Mary Drake Coles was a true memory painter.  A successful artist who upon being diagnosed with glaucoma  began practicing to remember how to paint.  To this day there is no real cure for the disease.  Some progress quickly, others delay blindness with prescription eyedrops and surgery to relieve pressure in the eye.  Still, it is a diagnoses one wouldn't like to hear.  Blind Artist is not a common phrase.

"I began trying to paint from memory as early as I could, while I still had some of my vision and could see what I was creating" she said.  She established unchanging positions for her colors and her brushes.  The first attempts were dire, but she persisted.  After several years of practice her vision was taken away fully, but she had developed an abstract style based on remembered realism.  As of 1964, it is reported she had seven one-woman shows in NYC, three of which were held after she was sightless.

Work by the artist is hard to find.  My attention was drawn by seeing an eBay listing for a group of her works.  Several photos are cribbed from the auction.  A wonderful film profile was posted several years ago by Legacy Connections Films.
Mary Drake Coles from Legacy Connections Films on Vimeo.

See also Martha Vinyard Association HERE
and L. A. Brown Photography HERE
Photographs (top) from article by Mel Stein from the National Insider February 18, 1964
Listing on eBay HERE 

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