Artist Spotlight Series: Mary Ann Forehand

A little local love with the my latest Artist Spotlight Series feature.

I am crazy for her colorful abstracts that are vividly vibrant.

Enjoy getting to know

Mary Ann Forehand

Charlotte, North Carolina

What is your training?

I have been painting and making things as far back as I can remember.  I was encouraged to major in something other than art so I majored in elementary education but was only interested in the art courses I had to take.  When my girls were tiny, I taught myself to paint with oils and would wake up extra early in the mornings so that I could paint before the children got up.  Eventually I was lucky enough to have an amazing instructor at Western Piedmont Community College and that was when I started to realize that  I really wanted to go back to school and get my BFA in Painting and Drawing.  I felt the best place in North Carolina to do that was East Carolina University  School of Art.  That was a 5 hour drive from where we were living at the time.  My girls were going away to school too so my husband encouraged me to see if my portfolio would get me into the ECU School of Art.  I got in and loved every minute of it.  I graduated with honors and painted and practiced metalsmithing (silver and gold) for years.   About five years ago I realized  I wanted to concentrate on just the painting.  I am really lucky to have a studio at home.  You can’t beat the commute!   

What inspires you and your designs?

 We are lifelong sailors and much of our time has been spent on the water.  I have found that water is very present in my work and that large bodies of water play a major part in what I do.  I am also inspired by the natural areas of vegetation found near the water.  We live on Lake Norman which is so large it is referred to as an inland sea.  I am constantly seeing it in all weather and times of year.  Much of my thinking when I paint is about things that are going on in the world and my own life and background.  It’s natural for me to use water to symbolize certain non verbal feelings in my abstract paintings.  The colors of the water I find to be a perfect foil for any colors I may use in the paintings.

The other major inspiration for me is absolutely color!  It is where I start on a piece and what I wrestle with in order to say what I want.  I am very experimental with color and am constantly working on creating more tension in a painting by adding a touch of unusual color.

What is your favorite piece?

My favorite piece is one I did a few years ago that I wish I had kept.  It’s true that an artist can never repeat themselves properly and this piece is especially true because it is so layered and has part of another painting on paper collaged onto it.  I love everything about it…the composition and color and the memory of painting it. 

“Water Under the Bridge”

36 x 36 acrylic and mixed media on canvas


How has the your area influenced your work?

I am a native Charlottean and a child of the 60’s and 70’s.  Not only has the beauty of the Charlotte that I grew up in been an influence, but the social norms that were accepted by many then that we all find problematic now are a rich soup of influences that provoke many questions I wrestle with on canvas.  As Jackson Pollock said “A painter paints who he/she is.”   

What is your favorite restaurant in the Charlotte area?

My favorite restaurant right now is Hello Sailor! which is a Kindred restaurant in Cornelius.  It was a tough choice between Hello Sailor! and Kindred in Davidson because they are both incredible but I am craving their Grilled Cesar Salad with Calabash Shrimp right now and today is the perfect day to eat on the water!  They have taken the area tradition of the “Fish Camp” restaurant and elevated it still keeping some of the favorites.  The Hushpuppies alone are worth the visit!  You really can’t go wrong at any Kindred restaurant.

What is your favorite cocktail?

I don’t really have a favorite cocktail although I order the Pamplemosa at Kindred a lot.  I love the bar at Kindred.  They have really inventive, delicious drinks and it’s so much fun to try new ones.

How do you balance personal life and work?

Balance!!  That’s a big one for me.  I usually run around like my hair’s on fire when I am intent on working then collapse and wonder what in the world I have done to be so exhausted.  I am trying, though, to be more mindful of taking time for other things routinely and actually that has been working out pretty well.  Right now, with so few places I can go safely and trips canceled indefinitely, it is a little more of a problem.  I am glad to see the weather cooling off so I can enjoy the water more.  I really love what I do and it is so tempting to want to let everything else slide in favor of working in the studio.

Dream trip?

Well…we really have already taken our dream trip.  We lived in Columbus, Ohio for a couple of years and sailed on Lake Erie.  We had always dreamed of sailing from Lake Erie to Oriental, N. C. when we moved back.  We did that and it took about ten weeks.  It took us through the Erie Canal, down the Hudson River out into the Atlantic then we came down the Intracoastal Waterway to Oriental.  I was pretty sick of sailing by then!  I would love to take the Great American Road Trip as I call it, through the interior West of New Mexico, Idaho, Wyoming, etc.  Maybe next year!

Dream commission?

My dream commission is any commission where I have complete freedom to do whatever I want.  In all honesty, the more freedom you give a painter on a commission, the better painting you get.  At least, with abstract, non objective painting that is the case.

Your favorite host / hostess gift to give?

My favorite hostess gift to give is a big jar of our secret family Fudge Sauce.  It’s been in our family for generations and no one is allowed to give the recipe out.  It is literally the best thing you ever tasted.  So many people tell me they just eat it with a spoon. 

I don’t always have time to make it so then I will give a bottle of wine….not that original!

Who is your style icon?

I love Ali McGraw every time I see her.  She always looks so natural and at ease.  I find it so much more beautiful for women to age gracefully without all the plastic surgery.  Also, I’m a little jealous that she gets to dress in western wear!

Your favorite up and coming artist?

An artist I have recently discovered is Spanish artist Nadia Jaber.  She is doing some incredible canvas collage pieces that actually are all about the digital world and in particular computer codes with references to Greek Mythology as well.

But I have to say that my very favorite contemporary artist  is someone who is really well known and respected…not up and coming.  Krista Harris’ work is so confident, knowledgable and authentic.  She actually grew up in Charlotte but lives and works in southwest Colorado.  Her work can be seen at Hodges Taylor in Charlotte.  I have so much respect for her!

What is your most treasured possession?

Is your family a possession???  They are my most favorite thing!  I guess the most treasured possession would be my studio.  It is my happy place and I can forget everything else when I am working in there.  Nowadays that is no easy feat, is it?

What are you reading?

Right now I am re-reading Ninth Street Women, by Mary Gabriel.  Best art book I have read!

I also just finished The Last of the Moon Girls, by Barbara Davis.  Fun book and that’s what I like at the end of the day…pure entertainment.

What are you listening to?

I listen to a lot of different things…always music when I work.  My latest purchases have been Imploding the Mirage by The Killers (favorite band)

and Good Souls, Better Angels by Lucinda Williams

What are your favorite blogs / publications?

Favorite Blog is The English Room and I love anything that Food52 does.

Follow Mary Ann on her website, @maryannforehand on Instagram and Facebook.

Take a look at her portfolio: 



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