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Family Roots - The Early Years
Mary-Ann Prack's background in the arts really began over a century ago with the creation, by her grandfather, of an architectural design firm in Pittsburgh, PA. By 1910, the firm had added an office in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and several more members of the Prack family, including her father. "Prack & Prack - A & E" became the quiet start of an iconic architectural, engineering and fine art family tradition that has spanned three generations and two countries.
"Art and architecture were a strong component of my early life experiences and surroundings. An appreciation of the arts was thoroughly instilled in me through everyday family life which included visits by accomplished artists, designers and architects … and trips to the U.S. and Europe. This became the essential basis from which I developed an understanding, respect and love of art and my favorite period in art history...the abstract expressionist movement. Living with this routine exposure to various artistic disciplines created a unique opportunity for me to not only appreciate but begin to understand and assimilate many different artistic styles; eventually, finding my own distinctive artistic language."
Prack began her formal fine art education at the University of Guelph in Ontario; continued at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and Florida Atlantic University where she studied both fine art and interior design. From this extensive arts foundation she has developed figurative sculpture that transforms the visual language of form, color, line and texture into what are, for her, serious but spirited and elegant abstractions of the human form.
Working with clay
Mary-Ann was drawn to clay as a sculpture medium for many reasons; from the discovery of its unlimited potential for creative expression to the fulfillment that comes with having a complete, personal control over every stage of the artistic process. For the past 30 years she has worked with clay as a pure sculpture medium. There is nothing traditional about her approach to or use of clay in terms of design, scale, or finish techniques. She has continually strived to design and construct sculptures that are distinctive, colorful, precise and with geometric purity of form and surface detail.
Much of her work pushes the envelope of clay sculpture construction without any compromise of artistic integrity. She has developed methods to overcome problems inherent in the use of clay for large scale sculptures such as weight, scale, glaze fit and finish, kiln limitations, etc. Mary-Ann hand builds each piece using a specially formulated clay body that has a stone-like hardness, strength and consistency suitable for large scale clay construction. After the first bisque firing she applies glazes and stains in much the same manner as a painter approaches a new canvas, and fires once again to attain the final colors and surface patterns. On occasion, she uses "cold-colors" and metallic oxides to obtain a specific surface treatment.
Sizes range from one to eight feet in height. At this stage the completed clay piece can also be used as a master form for finish casting in the more traditional metal methods using bronze, iron, aluminum or stainless steel. Because of its durability, clay itself can also be utilized for exterior sculptures that require patterned, intense colors and rich detail.
Making art that matters
Beyond the physical properties, Mary-Ann considers the most essential element of her sculpture to be the strong emotional and spiritual impact it has upon the viewer. The work seems to come alive when viewed as a free-standing sculpture, and even more so when viewed in a small group. Perhaps this is because of the intensely personal relationship between abstraction and the human figure that she imparts to her work. Her sculpture, while recalling the work of other modernists, has always had a place of its own, whether completed yesterday or twenty years ago.
Mary-Ann has now fully matured that artistic style into her own instantly recognizable abstract expressionist form that continues to garner awards and commendations from critics, collectors and other sculptors. She explains, "The relationship between abstraction and the human figure has everything to do with how I interpret the human experience, seeing and feeling intuitively as I work on a sculpture…The emotion of a line, color, shape, though abstract and subtle, conveys something very real to me.…Even though the viewers may not see what I see in the figures I create, the beauty of abstraction is that each viewer has their own interpretation experience, and that experience can change, grow, and never be stagnant." *
* Quotes from "Body Language," an exhibition review by Regina Haggo, Hamilton Spectator 12-7-13