Island artist finds beauty in the perspective
Artist Mary Farragher thinks about the big picture. And the small picture. She thinks about the really, really small picture, too. In fact, she paints images of tiny microbiological matter, blowing them up to show incredible details and nuances, then giving the image her special inspiration.
Farragher finds beauty in the shapes and forms of microbes. But she also finds interesting the parcels and curves of land masses as seen from far away — such as from the space station or Google Earth.
“It’s environmental pop art and abstract,” she said of her map series “Not for Navigation.”
For these paintings — of Galveston Island, Tiki Island, Bayou Vista, the Texas coast and the city of Houston — she used satellite imaging for their cores. She created a composite of information on each painting with visual data garnered from aerial photography and other mapping devices and merged all the details into one image, with her creative spin.
“We live in a unique time where we have all these perspectives about what we see — whether it is from a drone, a satellite or the space station,” she said. “I am taking full advantage of these tools.”
Another series of paintings, “Leaving Only Footprints,” depicts unnamed beaches — possibly on the Spanish coast — covered with beach umbrellas and the water line. She used the aerial photos to get the right perspective on the shadows cast by the umbrellas, making the abstract paintings recognizable as beach scenes, but also an interesting array of shapes and colors.
Farragher, who owns Beta Gallery on The Strand in downtown Galveston, has been painting and drawing for most of her life. An Ohio native, she learned early that her strength was her creativity and focused on art from the time she was very young, she said.
She attended college immediately after high school, but it wasn’t a good fit at that time, so she left to find her path, she said. She had a short stint performing at Walt Disney World in Florida and then tried working in Italy as an artist, but realized she lacked credentials for galleries to take her seriously. At age 27, she returned to the United States and enrolled in Youngstown University, where she worked hard over the next few years to attain a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She graduated cum laude, while taking full advantage of every opportunity in the academic environment to learn and grow as an artist, she said.
“I recently found a letter I wrote myself in 2008 about my life,” Farragher said. “In it, I said — at the bottom of the list — that I really wanted to paint every day and own a gallery.”
Ten years later, she’s hitting those goals. In June 2012, she moved to the island, where her brother Matthew Farragher was working for the Galveston Historical Foundation and because she wanted to live by the beach. Last year, her parents moved to the island, too.
She opened Beta Gallery in October 2016 in the Hutchings-Sealy Building on The Strand, a historic 1895 Nicholas Clayton-designed three-story structure with an ornate brick façade. Much of the original steel construction still stands along with the iron-cast staircase and slate steps up to her bright second-floor gallery. A large part of the floor is translucent glass, making the lobby upstairs an interesting conversation piece.
Farragher’s studio and gallery, which also represents eight other artists, is a relaxing space that opens onto the lobby. From her work area in the rear of the gallery, large windows face Galveston’s port, where she can watch people boarding and leaving cruise ships.
She creates something every day, whether it’s a painting of a diatom (microscopic sea organisms blown up to the size of a soda can) or views of a Galveston Bay community from afar, with ribbons of roads winding around the landmass like a web. She painted a crowded Interstate 10 west of Houston, with rolling lanes of traffic and lines of monochromic cars and trucks snaking around the highway. She often paints water-related images — beaches, oceans, bays — and includes the molecular structure of water as part of the art.
“It is symbolic,” she said. “The molecules assembled like a community — things living close together,” she said. “It reminds us of our dependency on the water, for fishing, sports, oil and industry.”