MARY WIPF biography

I seek out that which fragile, ephemeral, or not often seen. Detailed knowledge and subtle complexity are my passions. I am attracted to pattern; patterns of shapes and lines, patterns of motion, patterns of life.

My work is informed by the rich tapestries of Black Hills plants that are my neighbors. Drawn to the mesmerizing complexities of the most ephemeral and cryptic elements of the plants around me, I explore their most diminutive members by revealing them larger than life in intimate and exhaustive detail.  Many of my subjects live along steep mossy slopes, in dense underbrush, or on thin frail soils over rock. 

The drawings are deep pools of pattern. In them I employ many mediums including pencil, colored pencil, charcoal, gesso, gouache, conte crayon, and pastel.  They begin with marbled papers patterned using an ancient Japanese method of floating ink on water – these are images capturing the interaction of air and water.  On top of this, I juxtapose the naturally occurring repetitions in the structures of plant forms with my own invented patterns or with simple silhouettes that echo neighbors and companions of the plant community.  I believe in the power of the mark and of line, and of color… direct, powerful, spontaneous, and energetic. 

The relief block prints pose the interesting challenge of having to set aside the nuances of drawing in order to work with reduced essentials of color and shape.  I approach them with the heavy obligation of a portrait and put much into formal principles of design like directional forces and balance of negative and positive shapes. The repetitive process of hand-printing the blocks I carve is a “mantra of motion” – another pattern.