Mardy Sears was unaware that Friday Harbor had space for artists to work. But she discovered the Macfarlane Art Studio, part of the Whiteley Center, on one of her first visits to the Labs. She inquired about it and shortly thereafter found herself as the sole occupant with ample room and inspiration to create.
“It was about two or three days into my FHL visit when I asked about the studio, and they said it's available--just send in an application and it's yours,” says Sears.
A multi-media artist, Sears works with her hands, often creating large prints from carved wood blocks and linoleum, ceramics and sculptures. She binds her own books, filled with her own poetry and prose. She draws too, often focusing on animals like birds, insects and sea creatures.
“I am drawn to nature because of the form, texture and color. I do have an interest in the environment, and I really enjoy drawing animals. The animals are almost always standing in for people. There was a book I made a long time ago about birds, and I connected each bird to a family or friend that shared a similar trait. They are anthropomorphic—I am not telling a story about a chickadee or a humpback, I am telling a story about human feelings or events.”
While at the Labs, Sears connected with an octopus researcher and was able to interact with the animals. “I completely fell in love with a particular octopus named Enzyme,” Sears recounts. “It was a red octopus, and I was able to see it and feed it. They are so smart!” She created a painting featuring that octopus, which is now featured prominently on her website.
Sears, who works at the Art Institute of Chicago, enjoys her visits to FHL because she “loves the combination of art and science” and the connections she has forged with researchers. Often, she and her husband get together with scientists doing research at the Labs to share ideas over dinner conversations. “People are so collaborative and happy to talk and discuss,” she says. “They are very inviting.”
Inspired by the ocean and her surroundings, during her last visit Sears created a nearly 8-foot-long wood-block-carved print of a whale intertwined with her poetry. She also is in the process of creating nearly 1000 small, circular prints of various species of plankton, all which hang from the ceiling creating an illusion of small, floating animals in the sea.
“I love the crossroads of art and science,” says Sears. “I always discover something new when I am at FHL. It’s quiet, and such a fantastic experience for families, such a fantastic experience for the summer.”
You can view Sears’ artwork and other projects on her website.
Return to Whiteley Center webpage.