The world set sail on a sea of troubles in 2020. A plague of mythic proportions struck and each of us had to find a way through the storm. As artist Mary Becker began making, every usable surface in her home gave up its original purpose and became a space for the artwork that emerged every day. There was no choice in the matter. Becker finds sanity in her ability to make art. It is her True North, her calling. Her artwork is the needle that points her in the direction. A combination of all her values, all her beliefs, all her purpose.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Becker's concern was for the children. She found herself creating assemblages of children and animals wearing colorful masks. Pandemic babies all dressed up with no place to go! While in quarantine, she began researching historical pandemic-wear. Scenes with quirky figures wearing the strange bird-like gear the plague doctors wore popped out. These were followed by dozens of amulets of plague masked figures protected by charms & religious imagery. Deep into Covid, Becker began to despair. Her making darkened into creatures with extremely elaborate pandemic masks. Alone or in groups, her sculpture series "The Last Stand" grappled daily with survival as victims perished all over the world. In addition to her sculpture, Mary Becker: Finding True North features three detailed collages titled “There’s a Hole in Heaven”. This triptych depicts a world in which good is leaving and evil is entering. The Egyptian Sky Goddess protects the self-involved people enchanted with themselves, ignoring the hole in heaven.
As life slowly began its return to a semblance of normalcy, Becker was reminded of Venus Rising from The Sea. Nine of her assemblages in Finding True North were inspired by the “Sailors’ Valentines” of the 1830s to early 1900s. Elaborate, symmetrical mosaics crafted from seashells, sailors often purchased them from the tourist trade in Barbados (also their last port of call) or constructed their own to possess secret letters of love. Becker constructed hers using antique holy water fonts, mostly from 1800 Germany, antique handmade lace & embroidered appliqués, and ocean seashells. They are joyful expressions of survival and getting on with what lies ahead. Holy water is healing and purifying and pervades every religion and most cultures. For Becker, this is a symbolic connection as the entire world religiously washed its hands for the last year and a half. The tryptic screens in Becker's valentines are all from Florence. They are wood that she gessoed and gold leafed. Tiny assemblage figurines, coming up for air after a long year of plague, grace Becker’s valentines. Assembled from antique doll parts, vintage trims & embroidery, and ocean seashells, Becker sees them as sea gods lending a helping hand as we all make way for the surface.
Becker is a designer and mixed media artist with a focus on assemblage. Becker's artistic process begins with an inspiring image or theme and then moves into the serious and wonderful work of moving that imaginative spark into the material world. As a professional designer for Disney, Jim Henson, Hasbro, Charles Shultz, Wicked Cool Toys, and Alchemy II, Becker was a product designer for talking toys, walk-around costume characters, and children audiobook productions. Line extensions for Intellectual Properties included Mickey Mouse, The Muppets, Talking Mother Goose, Snoopy, and Teddy Ruxpin. She was seminal to the creation of Teddy Ruxpin and served as president of Alchemy II for 11 years. Additionally, she has designed kits for Bucilla and Paragon Embroidery Companies. Her ecclesiastical embroideries, created for ministers and churches, were featured in Fiber Arts Magazine. She has taught workshops in soft sculpture and fiber art throughout Southern California and Alaska. Currently, Becker is an artist with Los Angeles Experimental Artists (LAEA) and teaches mixed media workshops.
View images from Mary Becker's BoxHeart 2021 Exhibition, Finding True North.