My Great Grandma, Mary James Stark, was a painter. I never got the chance to meet her but oh how I wish I could have. She's one of those 5 people I would invite to dinner, you know, dead or alive. On any given wall, in any given family member's house, you were bound to see a Stark original. Hundreds of them - mostly landscapes from her travels - impressionistic, peaceful, moody.
As a child, I was spellbound by her work. Drawn to the textures and colors, I would press my face super close to her paintings - a big blur. Then I'd take a step back, two steps, three. Before my eyes, a vivid picture would take shape. I was discovering and literally experiencing impressionism. And it was magical.
Beyond the canvas, Mary was a world traveler. Her trusted camera was always by her side, ready to immortalize fleeting moments. Thousands of photographs that would later be brought to life on canvas.
Once, while clicking through her slides on a old Panorama machine (that would start to smoke if you left it on too long) I found the original photo of a painting I grew up with. It was a painting of a young boy sitting next to a large, round terracotta vase. The painting was displayed in my grandpa's office. To have found the original photo was thrilling - it was treasure.
Hours of my life were spent in front of her artwork. Observing, admiring, and pondering the stories they held. It wasn’t just the allure of the art that captivated me, but a deeper connection. It was as if my heart recognized a kindred spirit in her works. Something sparked in me that would remain dormant for decades, but in time, would ignite an insatiable fire.
Mary "Mame" James Stark