"Art Still Has Truth, Take Refuge There"

"Art Still Has Truth, Take Refuge There"

A R T  S T I L L  H A S  T R U T H . . .           

T A K E  R E F U G E  T H E R E

Art-making can be an avenue of healing and social change. Our country has been overwhelmed by explosive politics and there is a great divide among our citizens.  Social, racial and gender injustice, the crises of climate change and the fragility of democracy and its social protections has caused families, neighbors and friends to become estranged from each other during this tumultuous time. Artists across the world have taken up art-making to bring people together, to use art to mobilize and advocate for change. I also believe art can unite those of us who hold different viewpoints and find common ground to heal our broken hearts. Can we find our truth by taking refuge in art?

I am an artist and a feminist psychotherapist. Both involve the search for what is honest and true….to make meaning out of chaos. For over 30 years I have been a trauma therapist specializing in sexual abuse and incest; this has deeply informed my art. While doing psychotherapy I move back and forth between the painful and the joyous, witnessing the dignity and bravery as people strive to heal from trauma. When painting, a similar process happens while I wrestle with how the realities of climate change on the subjects I am focusing on. Climate degradation and the political strife we face in our world today is causing untold trauma for millions of people worldwide. We must seek to acknowledge how this harms us all in order to recover our strength and mend what is broken in our lives and our world.

 The meaning of my paintings of flowers, tide pools, sea stars, land/seascapes and fields of flowers under turbulent skies are not merely pretty pictures. I deliberately infuse my intensely colored paintings with emotional struggle, depicting the battle to overcome subjugation. These underwater gardens, flowers, landscapes and bodies of water are portraits of survivors involved in the effort to emerge from confusion and tyranny… the drama of the human spirit resisting oppression and seeking control over one's very life. The images that emerge from my brush reflect this struggle to exist, to matter, to be seen….to be set free.  I show the dignity of imperfection, the beauty present in the life force as it reaches for the sun.  These paintings are a celebration of survival.

All my watercolor paintings begin using the wet-into-wet method.  This allows expression of feeling, energy and motion using vibrant color.  Flooding the paper with water and pigment, I incorporate a variety of visual textures, pushing the boundaries of traditional watercolor methods. Working wet-into-wet requires that I exert control over a technique that by its nature resists control; this is an essential component of my work. There is both great freedom and challenge in the manner I approach my paintings; mirroring the healing path itself.

Advocating for social change has been part of the fabric of my life as both artist and therapist. As a feminist, the personal IS political.  In that spirit I donate 10% of my sales from my paintings to causes that support climate and social justice causes.

 “Art still has truth, take refuge there” is a line from a poem by Matthew Arnold. I first encountered the quote engraved on the St. Louis Art MuseumIt has great meaning to me and I experience that phrase as a clarion call. I invite my audience to take refuge in my paintings. 

-Mary Kay Neumann


Mary Kay Neumann's  paintings have been featured in solo and group exhibitions in galleries and art centers throughout the United States. This includes the New York Hall of Science, New York City; Rhonda Schaller Studio, New York City;  Mendocino Arts Center, Mendocino, CA; Woman Made Gallery, Chicago, Il;  Overture Center for the Arts,  Madison, WI;   Center for the Visual Arts , Wausau, WI;   Trout Museum of Art , Appleton, WI; Arts Center on Main, Garden City, KS; the Pyle Center of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI;  Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton's Office at the Wisconsin State Capital; Hudson Hospital's Healing Arts Program (in collaboration with the Phipps Center for the Arts), Hudson, Wisconsin;  University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics, Madison, WI;  Wisconsin Arts Board, in Madison, WI;

Mary Kay currently has a traveling exhibition with Helen Klebesadel, "The Flowers Are Burning: An Art and Climate Justice Project".  Helen and Mary Kay have exhibited their show at the Overture Center in Madison, WI, the Center for Visual Arts in Wausau, WI, and the Portage Art Center. They have a collaborative artwork included in the 19th Annual Art/Science Collaborative exhibit in New York City at the New York Hall of Science. It will be on display from September 2017 thru February 2018.

Mary Kay's paintings are held in numerous private, public and corporate collections throughout the US and Canada.

In August 2017 she was selected as a featured artist for Artsy Shark. 



Meriter Hospital, Madison, WI

Petkovsek & Moran, CPA, Madison, WI

Red Sage Health, Madison, WI

D&K Pattern, St. Charles, MI

Dean Clinic, Janesville, WI

West Bend Mutual Insurance, West Bend, WI



University Hospital and Clinics, Madison, WI

The State of Wisconsin Collection: Dept. of Transportation, Waukesha, WI



"Featured Artist, Artsy Shark" August 2017

"Falling Slowly (for Scout)" watercolor painting awarded Honorable Mention in 2011 Artful Women Show, University Hospitals, Madison, WI

Selected for Wisconsin Arts Board Percent for Art Direct Purchase Program for 2010

"Double Fantasy" watercolor painting selected for purchase in 2010 by State of Wisconsin DMV

"Creatures of Love" watercolor painting selected for Her Mark 2009, a journal of art and poetry, published by Woman Made Gallery, Chicago, Illinois

"Naked Truth" watercolor painting selected for 2008 calendar Small Rays of Hope and Fragments of A Larger Idea, Blue Pearl Press in conjunction with the Rhonda Schaller Gallery, New York City