With a slight nod to the Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein musical “Show Boat,” Mary Stewart’s art exhibit “Fish Gotta Swim, Birds Gotta Fly” has two distinct parts to it — watercolor paintings and fine crafts — both of which come naturally to her.
With inspiration taken from the sea and sky, her one-of-a-kind fine crafts, which include hats, scarves and “happy hour bags,” have an under-the-sea tone, while her paintings generally depict birds indigenous to our shores.
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Stewart will also include fiber work that is simply for the sake of decoration, but it’s her more utilitarian objects that really get her excited.
“I love having a product at the end of the process, I really enjoy that,” she says of her pieces that will be shown throughout November at Cape May Artists’ Cooperative Gallery. “I don’t use patterns … the fabrics dictate shape, size and dimension. And (you) want to emphasize the most important part of the fabric.
“In textures … some pieces are just more interesting,” she continues to explain. “And I love when colors and textures come together.”
Where Stewart’s fabrics tend to be heavy and her patterns complex with lots of detail, her watercolors are light and bright — the complete opposite.
“I think it’s a function of watercolors. My watercolors that work the best are the most simple. When I try to get more detailed … I tend to overwork it,” Stewart says. “I try to capture the subject quickly so it doesn’t get overworked or dull and heavy.
“Watercolors by nature are loose and light.”
Stewart has been on the board of the Cape May Artists’ Coop since its inception in 2009. She’ll have about 15 watercolors at her show there, five fabric collages composed of vintage fabrics and lace, as well as a large selection of her popular “happy hour bags.”
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“One of my customers coined the phrase. She said, ‘Oh, this is my happy hour bag — it holds keys, my wallet, lipstick and I’m off to happy hour’.”