Lightly tilting her head to the left, Freeporter and surrealist artist, Mary Elizabeth Jones carefully rotated the hobby knife to carve out an arc shape on the canvas she was preparing to glue pictures. Just four years ago, she started exploring the photomontage art techniques — the practice of making artwork out of photographs or parts of it. When she found out her artwork would go on display she said she was ecstatic; it’s what she’s been working for.
A Freeport High School 1990 alumnae, mother, grandmother and 45 years old, Jones she has finally reached the place artistically where she can share her artwork with people outside of her home.
For the month of September the Arts Council at Freeport is hosting an exhibit of her portraits at the Art Alcove at the Freeport Recreation Center. Though the exhibit is not her first, it’s the first time she is able to display her work for hometown. The opportunity to display her work is dreamlike for as she gave up art in high school and in spite of always wanting to create art, responsibilities to her family, work as a paralegal and goals to become an attorney kept her at bay.
“I started exploring art in the ninth grade,” she said. “But after the ninth grade, I never touched art again. Though, artistically speaking, it was coming out through my fashion and the colors I would wear.”
By 2013, burnt out and stressed, she decided to take a leave of absence from work. Spiraling and finally giving in to her creative vices, she dove in and experimented with photos, colors, words and anything she could get her hands on. She was hooked. The works she created helped her to release the tension she bottled up for years. It only started as an idea, but for Jones it immersed her into a world of creativity or as she says — freedom.
“I looked at one of my first pieces and said ‘Wow, this is beautiful,” Jones said. “Before I really looked at it, I had just looked at it as something that I made because I was stressed.”
Creating the collages has been Jones’ personal form of self-expression, but her type of artwork is dated back to at least the early 1900s. Such art form was first observed among Cubist painters Pablo Picasso and George Braque. The practice became noted when Picasso glued a patch of oilcloth with a chair cane design onto his canvas and called it “Still Life with Chair Caning,” while Braque cut out pieces of paper and glued them to his drawings; one in particular was the “Fruit dish and Glass.”
For years surrealist artists have followed in the footsteps of Picasso and Braque. By the 1950s, decoupage, the art of placing pictures on other objects for decorations and photomontage, the art of placing photographs or parts of it on canvas became more notable. One of the earliest pieces of photomontage was Richard Hamilton and John McHale’s 1956 piece titled “Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?” — a piece considered to be one of the earliest works of Pop Art.
Her artwork is personal to her, she says, as each piece and picture is a representation of a feeling, a memory or a reminder her goals. She spends hours of her free time to creating pieces and has even been able to commission a few pieces for private collectors. Her art has afforded her an opportunity beyond self-expression, but a journey of self-discovery. According to Jones, she’s tapped into a sense of artistic freedom she didn’t know she was starving for until she gave herself the space to create.
“There is love, healing, empowerment, inspiration— a blueprint in my work,” Jones said. “ I want to assist people [through my art] in knowing and loving who they are and owning their true selves.”