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Art & Life with Mary Zeran

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mary Zeran.

Mary, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I am a third generation artist on my mother’s side. Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my Mom and Grandmother making things. My mom was a woodworking and folk artist. My gramma designed and created her own embroidery patterns. This love of making was deeply rooted in our daily lives. In fact, we used to make things in the car on vacations.

It wasn’t until I went to the University of Iowa that I realized I might be an artist. I’d gone to school to be a journalist. Part of the program was picking a specialization. I chose art. The first class I took was metal smithing because my gramma had taken it in college. I’d grown up seeing all the things she’d created like pewter plates, fabric, and wood carving. I especially loved the pewter plates she’d made. I remember when I completed my first art piece. It was like an epiphany. Suddenly, I understood I was an artist.

It seems like the best things in my life have come out of misfortune. The way I became a painter was from developing lung problems the second to last year of my masters. I have asthma and very sensitive to all the chemicals we used. After months being sick, my doctor recommended I give up metal smithing and do something else. I was extremely lucky that my major professor Chunghi Choo didn’t care what materials we worked in as long as we were productive. I spent the last year of my degree working in plexiglass, sawdust, and wool doing found object sculptures.

After school, my husband and I moved to Seattle, WA. While there, I worked a day job and made sculpture. It was an extremely creative time. I took a lot of risks professionally. Started an artist cooperative gallery with several other artists. And worked with untraditional materials like live butterflies and grass. All those risks paid off. I was invited to be in group shows in Mesa, AZ, New York, NY, and Seattle, WA.

It wasn’t until we moved back to Iowa to take care of elderly parents that I started making collage. My day job was as a display artist at a department store. One of the projects was to make abstract paintings to decorate the store. That’s how I rediscovered my love of painting, and drawing. I couldn’t think about anything else. Moving the paint around and color captivated me. Especially, glorious, gorgeous color. Sadly, or happily I was laid off from my job. I started painting and making collage while I figured out my next step. That gave me the chance to take the leap and become a full time artist. I was able to return to the thing I loved the most. Making art.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My collage are a group that evolves over time. I paint on archival polyester film like they used in the Disney cartoon cells. This stage allows me to be free and create without judgement or worry of making a mistake. After the paint is dry, I cut up the paintings, and arrange them into new compositions. This way of working allows me to be spontaneous. It’s a collaborative process where I respond to the random things that happen in the process. It’s an intuitive way of working that allows me to tap into internal rhythms and collaborate with the materials and the piece of art.

I’m extremely inspired by nature, folk art, and fabric. Growing up with women who created decorative art gave me a huge respect and love for pattern, and abstracted flowers.

My biggest hope is that my art brings happiness or joy to the viewer. Many of my pieces are in hospitals. I want my work to give people a moment to think about something besides worries or sadness. I believe art has that power…

In your view, what is the biggest issue artists have to deal with?
The biggest challenge is having the time and resources to create art on a consistent basis. It used to be where an artist lived had huge impact on their career. If you weren’t in a large metropolitan area with a flourishing art market, it could be really tough. Thanks to the internet, getting your work out to a wider audience is easier than ever. Of course, that can be a problem too. All the promotion takes time and commitment. Looking at it from a positive point of view, I feel so lucky to have connected with artists and galleries throughout the country through social media. The time and effort is really worth it.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My metalwork is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s permanent collection in New York City. Several of my collage are part of Cedar Rapids Museum of Art’s permanent collection. In the Boston area, people can see my pieces at Newton Wellesley Hospital in Newton, MA. In Iowa, you can find my work at the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Eastern Iowa Heath Center, and several private corporate collections. My work is represented by Gilded Pear Gallery in Cedar Rapids, IA, Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art in Kansas City, MO, and Higher Art Gallery in Traverse City, MI.

I have a solo show coming up at the end of November at Gilded Pear Gallery in Cedar Rapids, IA.

My website is

Contact Info:

Artwork by Mary Zeran,, photographed 7/2017, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Image Credit:
Mary Zeran

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