David Lusk Gallery Memphis / 97 Tillman St. September 5, 2023 - October 7, 2023

Mary Sims

David Lusk Gallery Memphis kicks off Fall with a Mary Sims exhibition of still life, floral and portrait paintings all dating from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, the middle section of her long career. The exhibition, EXPRESSION ACCELERATING, shows Sims moving from flat, stylized and simply colored paintings toward her signature magically flat realism.

As a genre, still life painting is reverent, often quiet, and contemplative. Sims’ take is tranquil with a reduced color palette and delicate flowers. Speaking about the act of painting and the paintings themselves Sims said, “It’s emotional... I think I’m completely an unintellectual painter. The whole thing has got to be visual. It should fail or succeed just visually.”

Sims gravitates to muddy greens, muted yellows, and clay reds in these paintings, giving us one or two bright spots in a chair, hibiscus, or vase. Her color palettes and subjects are a direct link to the decade’s free-flowing and dynamic sensibilities. Earthy and somber, and with few objects surrounding the flowers, the arrangements themselves and Sims’ painting style are that much more intense and prominent. Textiles, props, triangulation, and shallow backgrounds are the throughlines to Sims’ still lifes, directing attention to each subject at the center of the paintings.

Theatricality and comedy have always embodied Sims’ portraits, and early paintings all invoke white as a grounding element. Monstera leaves surround a man in a white suit on a white bench; A small black dog and potted geranium appear quite small compared to the man in vintage knickers who sits between them. The portraits are larger-than-life portrayals of their subjects and viewers delight in color, humor, texture, and ephemera within them.

Mary Sims was considered a Memphis painter although she lived and worked in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, for the majority of her career and life. She was the first woman accepted into the printmaking department at the University of Iowa, where she received a BFA. She did further studies in Rome and then received her MFA from Tulane University. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, she taught art at Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College). Her work was frequently exhibited in the region and far beyond, including at her long-term dealers in Houston, Tulsa, Los Angeles and New York. Her work is in the collections of major private and public collections including John Grisham, Mary Tyler Moore and Burt Reynolds, as well as the Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock; The Assisi Foundation, Memphis; First Tennessee Bank, Memphis; the Kemper Collection, Kansas City; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art; Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson; nexAir, Memphis; Rhodes College, Memphis; and the Tennessee State Museum, Nashville, among others.

David Lusk Gallery is located at 97 Tillman St in Memphis, TN. Gallery hours are Tu - Sa 10a - 5p. For more information or images, please contact Lees Romano at lees@davidluskgallery.com or 615-780-9990