Mary Gallagher Stout leaves an impression with her email sign-off “Rainbows and lollipops.” And in-person, she smiles—a lot. She’s energetic and a consummate talker, telling stories, laughing, poking fun at her own eccentricities, talking through her current art projects. She’s a woman you don’t forget.
She’s a typical expressionistic artist. Her process and her materials are never haphazardly chosen but a part of the artistic message. Yet her vibrant optimism seems antithetical for a philosophy student turned visual artist.
Gallagher Stout is the first to admit her positive outlook is an act. If not an act, a conscious decision.
“Right now everything is so doom and gloom. I don’t want to add any more depressing stuff so I’m trying to be light. In my work, I am trying to focus on the silver lining, the beauty and the happiness of life with color and strong bodies. But there is a lot of dark I want to explore…..there is a lot I want to do with art: with women’s issues, with abuse, with suicide….But for now, I’m Tigger.”
A rocky childhood, a son of her own at 16, an abusive relationship, single motherhood, and scraping by to fund a philosophy degree, MGS appreciates that no one escapes life unscathed. After years on her own, she married and gave birth to her daughter and fell into a severe post-partum depression and mild agoraphobia. Desperate to shake her depression, she picked up a brush and paint and transformed the walls in her house into colorful murals. Visitors loved what they saw and soon, MGS found herself working as a decorative artist in other people’s homes.
“After a while, I wanted to do something more important than paint people’s homes so I juried into the Workhouse Art Center and I gave myself three years to figure out my voice. I made a lot of crap. I did a lot of soul searching.”
She dumpster-dove for kitchen cabinets for her first show at the Workhouse. Resurfacing used the concept of kitchen cabinets hiding categorized objects behind doors. From here Mary utilized the cabinets to show the compartments of her brain. “I was really proud of it because it was terrifying and ugly but I didn’t care. I was like fuck you, I don’t care. I’m doing what I want to do. I’m making a mess and some of it works and some of it doesn’t. That’s when it really became about the materials.”
Three solo shows, two books, and many exhibits later, 2016 has led MGS to experimenting with a muted palette and thinking more about brushwork. She’s focused on which fresh direction her painting is leading her. As in life, she knows art doesn’t have to be pretty all the time. “Just be honest with yourself,” she says, “For me, art makes life better and bearable.”