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2020 Artists


Mary Jo Mann

During my daily walks and bike rides during the summer months. I started to notice lush weeds growing in the cracks and crevices where no other plants dared to grow.  My casual observation grew into a daily focused effort to seek out these garden rejects and bring them home to my studio to paint.  While painting the forms, I tried to pay attention to what these beautiful plants had to teach me.

On the same walks through my neighborhood, I couldn't help but notice homeless camps tucked in doorways, along the side of buildings and under overpasses.  At some point, I began seeing a connection between the weeds and the homeless.  The fact they somehow survived though living on the outside with minimal nourishment, in places that aren't conducive to surviving.   As with weeds, our homeless neighbors are often rejected and seen as unsavory and unwanted.  I came to realize that as Ella Wheeler Wilcox stated in her poem, The Weed,   "A weed is but an unloved flower!"  Unlike weeds, I came to see that living on the outside takes a toll on fellow humans.   

What started out as an artistic exercise morphed into an effort to express my thoughts and emotions as I experienced the daily reminder that we live in a wealthy nation that has so many individuals living on our streets.  In the end, what the weeds had to teach me was the importance of looking (and listening) deeply in order to gain a more accurate understanding.

Community: SE Portland
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