A rural background in Wisconsin formed Mary’s love of nature. She received her MFA in Costume Design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she began to photograph her costumes, and realized she loved photography too.

Mary began working in alternative processes and achieved success with her images of farms, family and woodlands. She showed her work in New York, Wisconsin, Nebraska. and Minneosta. Her work with negative gum prints created from old family tintypes, won her both a grant from the Women’s Art Registry in Minnesota to work with Sam Taylor (Minneapolis) as well as a major award in Milwaukee, Wisconsin( 3rd Ward Installation Prize). Mary traveled to San Diego and Toronto (Canada), where she began work on a series of stainless steel plates, which allowed her to extend her images horizontally across plates of steel. Developing her own technique to work with Van Dyke prints and cyanotypes, Mary’s work was shown at the Ryerson Gallery in Toronto (“Dendritic Plates”). She continued this work after moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. Mary began to teach at the Kala Art Institute, which proved to be a welcoming place for her unusual work. She also taught black and white photography at the San Francisco Photo Center, and was an adjunct at Ohlone College. The digital revolution presented a crisis for her process. Inspired by Anna Atkins’ (accredited with the first book illustrated with photographic images, British Algae, Cyanotype Impressions) photograms, Mary’s work evolved from the natural to the naturally composed, where she arranged her subjects in specific manners from which she was able to develop the prints on exhibition here. In a similar fashion, Mary’s work with cyanotypes is an exploration with root vegetables. She is pleased with the way light plays around the globes of the vegetables and makes graphic images of the leaves. Her work is informed by the relationship between light and water, and the stark change from calm stillness to sparkling falls, the impressionist, Claude Monet, Karl Blossfeldt, Wabi Sabi, as well as traditions of botanical illustration.

Mary K. Shisler

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