Femme Visuale: Mary Mirabal

Unbridled, unabridged painting.

click to enlarge "At a Crossroad No. 2", acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 in., 2017 - Mary Mirabal
Mary Mirabal
"At a Crossroad No. 2", acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 in., 2017

Walking into Mary Mirabal’s home is like entering a strange portal right into an earthy abode in the Southwest. Enveloped in warm tones, I scan her shelves filled with Native American pottery and fetish charms. It’s really no wonder that her painting color palettes are influenced by this mesmerizing geographical landscape.

“These are the colors I’ve been instinctively drawn to even before we started traveling to the southwest. Most of what I paint is inspired by my love of Northern New Mexico. I paint with my heart, and hope my art will find its way to someone who shares my passion for color,” Mirabal explains.

 As a painter who started doing floral paintings, she found freedom in abstraction, inspired by the likes of Joan Mitchell, Mary Abbott and her muse, Georgia O’Keeffe.

 “I get inspiration — even if it’s just a color palette or a shape I’ve seen in another piece of art — and I’ll start from there. I mostly paint with my hands, so there’s no real thought-process of what it’s going to become. I paint intuitively applying paint, layer after layer-putting it on, taking it off, seeing how it evolves,” she says. “I enjoy not having any preconceived notion of it, just letting the piece tell me where to go next.”

 As you might imagine, things can get a mite bit messy. You can sigh in relief knowing acrylics are used for ease in clean up, but mostly because she doesn’t use gloves while painting with her hands. Working with layers upon layers of paint, I ask how she knows it’s finished.

 “That’s always the hard part. Even with this piece here, I thought it was finished. I always look at it the next day, and sometimes for several days or more, and turn it around on all sides. This one just said, ‘No, you’re not done.’ It’s just something that speaks to you and tells you when you’re there,” Mirabal says.

 Who doesn’t love happy accidents? (They sure beat other options). Intuition, serendipity, and a stream of unconsciousness flow through her work, but her path to painting wasn’t like most artists.

click to enlarge Mary Mirabal with one of her canvases. - Carmen Mandato
Carmen Mandato
Mary Mirabal with one of her canvases.
 “I didn’t have any early art experience. I’m one of eight children from a working family, so we didn’t have time for art lessons and things like that. I have always been an art lover — we love to collect art,” Mirabal explains. “Through the years as we collected, I always had this inkling in the back of my mind that I would love to try it one day. But with raising children, being a wife, and having a career — who has time for that?”

 Over 30 years, Mirabal worked in insurance and sales/marketing without touching a paintbrush. It wasn’t until she stopped working in the corporate world that she forged time for herself.

 “That’s when I realized, ‘What do I want to do? What’s going to make my soul happy?’” she says.

 She had never been able to work creatively before, so she asked “Santa” (aka her husband) for a paint set for Christmas one year.

 “He looked at me like I had four heads since I had never told anyone about my passion before. It took about six months to actually break it open though. It’s like now that I have it, what do I do?” she says. “I was at a point where it’s like, what’s the worst that can happen? You’d suck at it? As long as I’m happy, that’s all that matters. Art has filled a tremendous void that I didn’t even know I had.”

 From there, she started taking classes with Joe Testa-Secca at Hillsborough Community College every Saturday morning for 12 weeks, with additional workshops and courses along her self-taught journey.


click to enlarge "High Spirits", acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 in.,  2016 - Mary Mirabal
Mary Mirabal
"High Spirits", acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 in., 2016
“When I’m working, I lose all sense of time, but I want to go to the next level. I feel like I’m in a safe zone and I want to break out of that,” Mirabal says. “What can be most intimidating in the studio is looking at a blank canvas, but once you start putting paint on, that goes away. One of my artist friends always says, ‘Don’t be afraid to mess up a canvas. Grab another, and mess it up. You will learn so much.’”

 2018 seems to be Mirabal’s year, with many opportunities already lined up for her. For starters, she currently has work in two local exhibitions: New and Now at the Art Center Sarasota and Faces and Figures at the Old Hyde Park Art Center. On April 6, she will be the featured artist at Cleanse Apothecary for First Friday Art in the Heights. Over the summer, she will be getting an art-cation to spend two months in Santa Fe, NM (lucky gal) doing live painting on Canyon Road.

 “I’m in the middle of my life and feel like I’ve just discovered who I am,” Mirabal says. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

 To see more of her work, visit her website.

 To see her fashion line with VIDA (gorgeous scarves galore!), click here.

click to enlarge One of Mirabal's fashion designs from VIDA - VIDA
One of Mirabal's fashion designs from VIDA



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