Mary L. Proctor Collection consists of a mixed media painted door titled Equal, 2000 by Mary L. Proctor. Equal, 2000 depicts an image of a grandmother and grandchild holding hands. Grandmother’s body is created with boxes and packets of Equal sugar substitute. Grandchild’s body is created with packets of Equal sugar substitute. Text incorporated into the artwork: “I SAID TO MY GRANDMA WHAT IS IT YOU ‘WANT THE MOST’ SHE SAID JUST TO BE TREATED ‘EQUAL’ THAT WILL BE SWEET BABY.” Equal, 2000 was part of the exhibition, On Their Own: Selected Works by Self-Taught African American Artists, from January 31 through June 12, 2005 at the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
Born in 1960 in Jefferson County, Florida, Mary L. Proctor, also known as Missionary Mary L. Proctor, was abandoned by her mother and raised by her grandparents, a mixed-race couple. When she was seventeen, Proctor moved to Tallahassee and married Tyrone Proctor, a fireman. Proctor worked in the nursing field for ten years, and then opened and managed a day care center for five years. After picking up stuff along the side of the road and selling it at a flea market, she opened her own store, Noah’s Ark Flea Market, in rural north Florida.
During 1994, her grandmother, aunt, and uncle died in a house fire. Not long after, a voice told Proctor to paint an old door lying in her junkyard. She listened to the voice and has been painting on everything she can get her hands on ever since. Found objects from her junkyard and written messages of spiritual truth or life lessons are incorporated into Mary’s mixed media artworks.
Proctor’s artworks are autobiographical statements that address her religious convictions, family, and personal experiences. Her works are inspired by bible scripture, and memories of her grandmother and her childhood. In some of her paintings, she uses images and text to reveal childhood lessons taught by her grandmother. She explores the equal treatment of women and African Americans, raising children, and spiritual faith in her artwork. Proctor credits her vision and success as an artist to her faith and belief in God. She sees herself as a missionary, and her goal is to use her art to spread her message.
Currently, Proctor owns and operates the American Folk Art Museum and Gallery in Tallahassee, Florida. Her work is a part of the permanent collections at American Folk Art Museum and Gallery (including her Hall of Presidents: all life size replica of 43 American presidents made out of Coke cans and life size), American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, and House of Blues. Her work was a part of exhibitions at Morris Museum in August, Georgia; the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Art in Eatonville, Florida; the Mennello Museum of American Folk Art; and the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee, Florida.
Arnett, Paul, and William Arnett. 2000. Souls grown deep: African American vernacular art of the South. Atlanta, Ga: Tinwood Books.
Clendinen, Dudley. "Art; A 2,000-Mile Forage for Folk Art." The New York Times, April 4, 2004. Accessed July 24, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/04/arts/art-a-2000-mile-forage-for-folk-art.html
Conwill, Kinshasha. 2001. Testimony: vernacular art of the African-American south : the Ronald and June Shelp collection. New York: H.N. Abrams in association with Exhibitions International and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Crown, Carol, and Cheryl Rivers. 2013. Folk art. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Kistulentz, Steve. "Mary Proctor's Vision." Raw Vision 29 (Winter 1999).
Mason, Randy, Michael Murphy, and Don Mayberger. 2006. Rare visions & roadside revelations. Kansas City [Mo.]: KCPT.
Monroe, Gary. 2003. Extraordinary interpretations: Florida's self-taught artists. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida.
African American artists
Arts and the poor
Autobiographical memory in art
Found objects (Art)
Human beings in art
Permanent Collection, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum