Story by Elaine Zabriskie, Photography by Visionkit Studio
Watching her stand beside a towering blue-and-pink grizzly bear and add the final touches to the largest painting she’s created to date, one can’t help but think: Mary Arnold was meant to be here. Born on a farm in Idaho, she was raised among life’s greatest inspirations: the creativity of her family and the endless beauty of nature. She seemed from the beginning to be on a path toward the arts, but getting to this moment has been a long journey. Despite her natural gifts, artistic works became a secondary pursuit for much of her life.
“I was always drawn to a creative role in visual arts,” Mary says. “However, growing up with economic limitations and a “math-brain,” I was guided by my parents to computer programming and analytics for my studies.”
Mary’s formal training was about as far from visual arts as possible: a BBA from the University of Texas and an International MBA from Arizona State University. With an affinity for both the creative and the analytical, Mary enjoyed her career as a regional director of analytics with a healthcare company, but the “creative bug” stayed with her.
Throughout the years, she continued working with various artistic mediums, including ceramics, jewelry, and poetry. International travel allowed Mary to continue growing and developing as an artist. Spending countless hours in museums in France, she drew inspiration and absorbed knowledge from the works of some of the world’s most celebrated artists.Then, an opportunity in 2020 changed everything. A scholarship from the Idaho Commission on the Arts allowed her to “get serious” about being a full-time artist for the first time. And now that she has committed to her new career, there’s no stopping her.
“I’ve been painting bigger and bigger over time and I’m at a point that I need a more robust easel to paint even bigger. I want to create art that envelops the viewer in the scene.”
Fearless in her artistic style, Mary relies on a self-taught expressiveness in her work. She uses rapid brush strokes and unusual colors to capture something beyond reality: the world as we feel it, not just as we see it. Her work evokes a powerful sense of Idaho as a home, and an idea that not only does this land belong to us, but we belong to it as well.
Mary’s inspiration for this mural is – of course – found close to home. Through her eyes, Idaho is a wellspring of wonder, with rugged mountains, lively species, and a community that has relied on this landscape for generations. Her work, now dominating the side of the Boise GreenBike (Now Vall-E Bike) building, shows the commonalities between animals and humanity, a balance between joyful and thoughtful for this climate-focused mural.
“I grew up on a farm where stewardship of land and animals was key to sustainability of your business. For as long as I have been alive, animals were my companions, and the fields, rocks and mountains of Idaho were my playground,” Mary says. “Climate legislation is the way that future generations will be able to experience the beauty of Idaho that I grew up with.”
Mary pays her knowledge forward as she grows in her artistic career, supporting other artists and continuing to invest in her community the way that it has invested in her. The effort reiterates the sense that she was indeed meant to be here, giving a voice to the feeling that many share – that we have the opportunity to protect something important.
“Every person deserves and is obligated to take a seat at the table to figure out how we can protect our open lands for all, keep clean water to serve all constituents, and to protect wildlife and a diverse ecosystem. Those topics mean balance and a real future for Idahoans.”
To see more of Mary’s work online or in person, check out her website, Instagram, and newsletter:
Email Newsletter: https://www.mgarnoldart.com/email-newsletter