All posts by MaryBennett

I'm a visual artist and community catalyst living in Vancouver BC.

Sticks and Stones


Artists Talk – November 14

Vancouver Maritime Museum

Along with Louise Bunn and Alison Keenan, I will be giving an Artists’ Talk on Thursday, November 14 at 7 pm. (social starts at 6 pm). We will talk about our art, where we’ve been and where we’re going, and reflect on this unique experience to paint on the S.S. Master.

Sticks and Stones I

Sticks and Stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me. Not!

This piece is the first completed work in what will be a series combining abstracted landscape with ideas about the power of words. They will be exhibited at Leigh Square in Port Coquitlam next summer.


Sticks and stones can definitely break bones, but I am not the only person who’s only imagined, heard or read about that kind of experience. But I have known the power of words to hurt. I’ve been on both sides of the wounds that fester long after the words have penetrated.

I took to words from an early age. And found them powerful as both shields and weapons. I can picture myself as a young girl (Hands on hips—a stance my mother called “unbecoming”) with set jaw (and teary eyes) retorting that phrase to some kid that teased me.

Now, I listen to Buddhist podcasts about “right speech” and I follow a facebook page called “I speak sarcasm as a second language.” Both acknowledge the power of words.

From teaching communications skills, I know that researchers estimate that only seven per cent of the impact of our communication comes from the words themselves; the rest from voice tone and facial expression. If words can be bullets, our tone and face are the guns that launch them.

The pen is mightier than the sword. Another saying we would at least like to be true.

The pen records laws and literature that can have lasting impact, often over centuries, and over a wide expanse of territory. The sword attacks one person at a time and while tales (words written by pens) of bravery or terror can last, the direct impact is limited, albeit intimate.

Some of the ideas I am interested in (but will probably not be explicit in the art) are

  • verbal bullying
  • correct versus vernacular language
  • how language changes over time; made-up words
  • learning language
  • jargon, slogans, mottos and mission statements
  • polices, laws and manuals

I’m still working through these ideas – would enjoy hearing your response.
Mary Bennett

My mixed-media paintings veer towards the conceptual and abstract. Like this piece, Sticks and Stones I, they often start as a composition based on a landscape. This is the view from the S.S. Master steam tugboat when moored at Granville Island in the summer. The view is from the stern looking towards land – the rocks (stones) and the dock (sticks).

I work on canvas or wood panel, using acrylic paints and media. On to the piece can go organic material (leaves), urban trash (plastic), textile and various kinds of paper.

As an extrovert, I find it essential to move between the solitary, focused time of working on art alone and connecting with others. Two “artist dates” to make art alone-together each week prime the pump. Studying for art education at UBC I learned that children often engage in “parallel play” – They are playing side-by-side but not engaging together by sharing toys or in group play.

My work is usually in series, the most recently completed show was called “Incubating Poetry” – a collaboration with a friend and poet, Keith Wilkinson. Images of birds’ nests had dictionary pages embedded in -the raw materials for poetry – as well as selected poems either on the piece or exhibited beside the piece. Sometimes visual art followed the poem; sometimes the reverse. We called it a creative conversation, between Keith and me, but also between our work.

I have had several significant mentors in becoming a visual artist. First, Charmaine Johnson who taught the required Art Education course for my B.Ed., who encouraged me to major in art and saw some talent there. Secondly, Barbara Bickel, who now teaches in the U.S. who led me into mixed-media work and generously shared techniques and feedback in a supportive way. Thirdly, I am one of many “Jeanne Fans” – Taking three Emily Carr courses with Jeanne Krabbendam and numerous private consultations has extended my sense of myself as an artist and given me an entire trunk full of techniques to continue to experiment with out.


Mary Bennett web:


Northern Fulmar



This is a painting of the nest of a Northern Fulmar – a few pebbles scraped together so the egg doesn’t fall off the cliff.

I got interested in the Northern Fulmar because of a research study at UBC on the issue of plastics pollution in the oceans, suggesting this species as an “indicator species” (think canary in coal mine.)

I am doing a community-engaged eco-art project at the Vancouver Maritime Museum in September, 2013, where we will create birds from recycled plastic. Check out Bird on the Beach for more information.

I am now also studying the Northern Fulmar in Inuit Legend.

Urban Birds’ Nests


This piece was inspired by a photograph by Sharon Beals in 50 Nests and the Birds That Made Them.

All of the trash was picked up within 2 blocks of my home on a short walk one afternoon.

There is recent research saying birds are putting cigarette butts in their nests and the nicotine works as an insecticide decreasing the mites. But the researchers are quick to add there may be negative consequences as well.

Cigarette butts are the top waste found during the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.

People have made art from cigarette butts, and I’m considering it.







Gardening as Art


My roundabout garden at 6th and Trafalgar in Kitsilano (Vancouver,BC) has recently had its 15 minutes of fame.

First of all, a journalist who lives in the neighbourhood wrote a piece about it and “Mary Whoever-You-Are” (that’s me!). And then CBC TV did a piece for Earth Day featuring myself and fellow Green Streets Gardener Elayne Armstrong (Broadway and Balsam).

But is it art??? you ask.

And yes, I answer, in several ways.

1. Gardening is an art – period.

2. I have a bird art sculpture made for Worldwide Bird Art Installation Day in my garden. Someone has left a metal lizard and a hat for the bird.

3. I also have two artful mason bee houses.

4. Open Source Landscaping – a phrase coined by Oliver Kellhammer to describe a public area where the gardener/artist allows or encourages things to unfold. I’m not as out there as Oliver is and I took out the corn plants that were put in last year.

5. Botanical Intervention – another phrase from Oliver Kellhammer – plants put into an urban setting that “intervenes” in the habitual ways of people.

6. Relational Aesthetics – this little piece of ground encourages relationships.  I love the idea that I don’t know all of what happens there and if people know me at all, they know me as “Mary Whoever-You-Are”.

Click the photo at top for the Vancouver Sun article and here for the CBC TV news segment.