Mary Zarbano Exhibit “Dreamscapes” on display through Aug. 21
As is the case with many visual artists, the full scope of an artist’s work goes generally unappreciated until after their passing. Vincent van Gogh sold one painting during his lifetime and passed away without notice – fast forward precisely a century and one of his paintings sells for $148 million at auction. Why does it take so long for an artist to become a sensation? We may never know, but such may very well be the case for the California artist, Mary Zarbano. Born in Nebraska in 1931, Zarbano became heavily influenced by modernist painters. After studying with Picasso and Chagall in New York, she settled in Buena Park, CA, and painted every day of her life until her passing in 2019. Immensely prolific, not just as a painter but also a sculptor, Zarbano’s work has been exhibited many times in California during her life but never left the west coast. Now through Aug. 21, you have the rare opportunity to see her work on display at the Clark Gallery at the Honeywell Center in downtown Wabash, IN.
Zarbano’s paintings are truly unique. The influence of the modernist painters is apparent – the angular lines are reminiscent of cubism as are the abstracted features of its human subjects. Nevertheless, Zarbano’s work is also very much her own. Her paintings are deeply intimate and often feature women and children in muted palettes with flashes of vibrant color. “Her work is the story of her life, and you can tell that she’s not always had a happy life,” says Julie Dickey, owner of the nearly 180 pieces in Zarbano’s estate. Zarbano’s life was not without trials – she and her first husband had two daughters, each diagnosed and institutionalized for schizophrenia.
Despite these trials, Zarbano was a warm, giving, generous, member of the Fullerton, California artist community Dickey was also a part of. She inspired other artists and took a unique approach to presenting her work. “She never wanted to tell a viewer how to feel about what they were seeing,” says Dickey. “A lot of her work didn’t have names, or she would write the name on the back and not post it because she didn’t want to predispose people to how it would move them.” In this spirit, Dickey says the paintings on display at the Clark Gallery will only have numbers to mark them.
Dickey, herself a California native, came to know Zarbano through a nonprofit arts organization Zarbano often donated paintings to for fundraising events. “We are willing to part with paintings for less than what Mary would have charged.” says Dickey. “What’s important is that these pieces go to people that it speaks to. Her worst nightmare was that she would see a piece of her work in a thrift store or garage sale.”
Unsold paintings will be on display in Dickey’s soon-to-open artist’s hangout and studio, 4 Partners in Crime, set to open in October, so Zarbano can continue to inspire the future artists that study there.
Today, when art is so easily consumed on our smart phones, computers, and other digital devices, it feels like an ancient luxury to view a piece of original art in person and even more of a luxury to purchase one for your home. But whether you own it or not, standing in front of a painting promises an intimate experience unique to each viewer. “Art tells a story to different people in different ways,” says Dickey. “And that story moves people.” So even if you’re not in the market to purchase an original work of art, come view the stunning pieces by this remarkable artist.
The exhibit is on display through Aug. 21 in the Clark Gallery, located inside the Honeywell Center. The gallery is open for viewing Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and for two hours prior to live performances in the Ford Theater.