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Mary Anne Keel Jenkins (1929-2017)

Mary Anne Keel Jenkins (1929-2017) is considered to be one of North Carolina’s most significant female painters. In addition to private collections, her work can be found in the permanent collections of many museums, including: The North Carolina Museum of Art,  The Weatherspoon Art Museum, The Greenville Museum of Art, The North Carolina Museum of History, North Carolina State University Gallery of Art and Design, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina A&T University, Wake Forest University and the Goldsboro Art Center, and The Minnesota Museum of Art. A master of abstraction, Mary Anne Keel Jenkins created and explored four distinctive styles over the course of her remarkable career: (chronologically, over 4 decades) the Drip Paintings, Mixed Media on Amatl Paper, Acrylics on Prepared Surfaces, and Alkyd and Collage on Paper. 

Mary Anne Keel Jenkins’ Statement on her use of Amatl (also Amati, Amate, or Amatyl) Paper:

“I have been using Amatl paper since my stay in Mexico in 1971. As early as 500 AD the Mayans of Central and South America were making Amatl papers. They used them for illustrated manuscripts and books. Aztecs, who came later, continued to make and use Amatl. Present day manufacturers are Otomi Indians, who, like their ancestors, use these papers for ceremonial purposes.

“The women of the tribes take bark strips of Mulberry, Fig or Hemp that are about an inch wide and boil them in a vat with ash. after ten hours of cooking, the strips are washed, beaten with stone tools, and then placed in the sun to dry.

“Each sheet is irregular in color, size, thickness and texture. Therefore, each presents a challenge as to the choice of other pictorial elements. The crude dry look of Amatl I found to be most attractive. After examining the papers, I decided to use compositional elements that would retain the subtlety of the paper itself.”

Read this artist's biography

Mary Anne Keel Jenkins was born in 1929 in Stokes, North Carolina and died in 2017 in Raleigh, North Carolina. She grew up in Greenville and was very well educated, having studied at the Ferree School of Art in Raleigh, East Carolina University, North Carolina State University and San Carlos Art School in Mexico City. After graduation from the Ferree School of Art, the artist briefly worked for the Raleigh Times as a Display Advertising Account Executive, but after her marriage in 1954, Mary Anne Keel Jenkins decided to devote the entirety of her focus to creating artwork.

Jenkins’ work was first exhibited at the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Annual Artist’s Exhibition in 1954. Over the course of her prosperous career, Jenkins was awarded 43 distinctions, and exhibited in 50 solo and two-person shows and 361 group exhibits throughout the United States and Canada. A passionate learner, Mary Anne Keel Jenkins traveled the world for work and study, including Costa Rica, Italy and Spain.

In 1982, Mary Anne Keel Jenkins helped organize a series of exhibitions with over 100 works of art championing North Carolina artists. In partnership with NC Governor James Hunt and the NC Commerce Department, Mary Anne Keel Jenkins arranged 3 shows which traveled around Western Europe for 5 months; at the University of Essex, England, at the US Embassy in The Hague, and at the Amerika Haus in Köln, West Germany.

Some of the awards the artist received include the Raleigh Art Achievement Award in 1987, the Raleigh Medal of Art Award in 1994, the Purchase Award from the Minnesota Museum of Art, and the Paul L. Sample  Award from the “12th National Jury Show” in Chautauqua, NY.

Jenkins was appointed to several esteemed positions by the Raleigh City Council, including Chairwoman of the Art in Public Places Task Force, member of the Board of Directors of the Artist Housing Task Force, and member of the Board of Directors for the Emerging Artist Program for the City of Raleigh.

In addition to painting and public service, Mary Anne Keel Jenkins was a painting instructor from 1962 to the late 1990s, including, but not limited to, positions at NCSU’s School of Design, Pullen Art Center, workshops at the NC Museum of Art, and through her own business, “The Painting Studio.”

Review this artist's vitae [PDF document]

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