Mary Oros comes from a creative background. Both her parents were industrial designers during the era of mid-century modern design. When her Dad became a design executive at the Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Michigan, Mary, as a young child, would often accompany him when he stopped by the office on Saturdays. They would walk through the clay modeling room where the clay modelers would be working on car prototypes, and to this day, she still remembers the scent of plasticine. While her Dad attended to business, she would sit at his desk where he had an entire drawer filled with Prismacolor colored pencils and make drawings until he returned. When she was 15, her father was transferred to Ford of Europe, so Mary moved with her family to England. For high school, she attended The American School, a 45 min. train ride to London. The experience of culturally diverse London was rich, as was the artistic exposure to theater, dance, music, and visual art.
Mary moved back to the states on her own and attended the Cleveland Institute of Art. There she was awarded an honorary scholarship for one year and a partial scholarship to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture’s summer program in Maine. The Skowhegan School awarded her the 1975 Purchase Prize. In 1977 she earned a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art and received the Agnes Gund Award. While at Skowhegan, she met sculptor William King, who became a mentor and friend when she moved to NYC for a few years after art school. It was through Bill that she had the opportunity to show one of her sculptures at the OK Harris Gallery’s show “In the Event of Living Sculpture.” Going to NYC’s galleries and museums was completely eye-opening and inspiring, but in 1986 Mary moved to Santa Barbara, where her family had relocated.
Mary has led careers in product design, creating contemporary concrete garden planters, contemporary cast bronze furniture hardware, and contemporary cast resin costume jewelry. Her garden planters were made to order and sold directly to landscape architects and designers for both private and commercial properties in the Bay Area. They have been featured in the SF Chronicle’s Garden section, as well as Leaf Magazine online. Mary’s line of cast bronze hardware sold nationally and was represented by the Agnes Bourne Showroom at the San Francisco Design Center. Her hardware has been featured in Interior Design Magazine, Interiors Magazine, and the SF Chronicle’s Examiner Magazine. Her cast resin costume jewelry was represented by the Dennis Perry showroom in NYC, and Carrie Hodes Inc., in Los Angeles. It sold nationally to specialty and boutique stores, and has been featured in Harper’s Bazaar Magazine, Vogue Magazine, Accessories Magazine, and California Apparel News.
All of Mary’s product lines have been sculptural. Sculpture is her first love, and she has always created sculpture alongside product, but now feels grateful and fortunate to be making sculpture full time. In 2005, after participating in a group show with Pacific Rim Sculptors, and as a gift of the Seward Johnson Atelier, her sculpture “Henry Takes His First Steps” was replicated in aluminum and installed at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey. Her sculptures have been shown at the SFMOMA Artists Gallery, throughout the Bay Area, in Southern California, and at Art San Diego 2018. They have been featured on the cover and in Benicia Magazine, as an advertisement for Grounds for Sculpture in Sculpture Magazine and are in several private collections.
My sculpture begins in response to a feeling. The feeling informs my visual direction, at which point I start drawing in my sketchbook or immediately in space with my armature materials. I’m a hands-on designer, so new directions sometimes happen as I go along, but my goal is to always stay true to the initial feeling. I’m attracted to natural forms and how they transition into one another, and the way they move through space. Dance also inspires me- the emotional expression as well as the choreographed form. I want my sculpture to feel alive, and it is important to me that it works well in the round. I want to walk around each piece and feel a continuum so that anywhere I pause, the expression is clear.
Besides designing the piece, I design the process to build it, and my building process is continually evolving. As I build, I am constantly working up, down, and from side to side. The majority of my time is spent creating the armature, and once completed, the armature is very close to the final form. I then coat and pack it with my own mix of concrete- a recipe given to me by an engineer involved in bridge building. It is structural, stronger than I really need, has some flexural as well as tensile strength, and allows me to work fairly thin. Color is my final decision, which simply comes to me once I’ve completed the form. When my base coat has set and the surface fairly smooth, I topcoat with concrete meant for flooring. I mix my own color, which is integral to the material, and apply it with paintbrushes, kitchen spatulas… anything that works. For a soft satin finish, my pieces are lightly sealed, waxed and buffed, and suitable for indoors only.
I have been asked about making outdoor work and have recently researched replicating my sculpture in bronze. The latest technology involves scanning the sculpture, enabling the piece to be scaled up or down, and eliminates the need to make a mold. From the scan, a 3D print is made. The substrate is infused with wax and made foundry ready. It is then cast in bronze using the lost wax method and finished smooth with a patina.