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:


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