Portrait of the Artist

Mary Storms

The Imaginary Southwest

By Margaret Foster | February 13, 2017
Mary Storms, Split Rock Canyon
Mary Storms, Split Rock Canyon


Massachusetts-born mixed-media artist Mary Storms first glimpsed the grandeur of the American West when she was a teenager. After her father died, her mother “left everything we knew and headed west to California. We took Interstate 80 all the way across, and that takes you through some spectacular places.” Inspired by those landscapes, Storms—yes, that’s her real last name—began painting them in earnest 10 years ago.

“More often than not, when I’m sitting with a blank canvas in front of me, I just start painting and layering paper. I usually have some kind of horizon line in the piece. I know I’m going to create a landscape, but I really don’t set out with a certain image in mind. Most of my titles come to me when I’m done.

Split Rock Canyon (above) is an imaginary place. I’ve always been drawn to the Southwest, especially the Four Corners area. It’s a very spiritual place, with those massive rock formations and endless skies. And the colors are spectacular. A few years back, I did a series of mixed-media pieces called The Cliff Dwellers, inspired by the Anasazi Indians who lived there and built their homes along cliff walls. Split Rock Canyon is similar to that series. There’s a large vertical gap or split in the rock formation beneath the village—hence the title.”

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