Mary Bourke Exhibit Images

Living Matters


This exhibit represents seventeen years in the creative life of Mary Bourke. All of the forty-five paintings except one are from the artist's personal collection. She chooses to be unrepresented and nothing is for sale. This is her first Illinois museum exhibit.

Mary Bourke's imagery is drawn from her personal and family life. What she sees, what she knows, what she encounters fuels her artistic instincts. Her twin sons, husband, and parents are often chosen as models. For seven of the compositions she has elected to use her own image. Distinct visual themes are interwoven throughout her work.

The world she sees is often filled with danger. It is a world that has perils, pitfalls, enemies, and confusion. The brewing storm of life's menacing misfortunes is just over the horizon. We are all standing on a precipice of uncertainty in the theater of Life.

Theatrical imagery is carefully choreographed within her work. In Shakespearean terms "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players." Her interest in masks, costuming, fantasy, and theatrical settings lend mystery, magic, and intrigue to her performers. Offered a canvas to enliven her thoughts, the role-playing protagonists participate in the scenes and acts of her "plays."

Ancient and Classical traditions including Egyptian, Roman and Greek architecture and subject matter impact her work. The Renaissance and Baroque Masters are some of her revered mentors. The artistic heirlooms that she has unherited from these sources are best illustrated in the verse and paintings for Mary Margaret Eleanor Was Not an Artist to Ignore in the outside corridor and The Six Stages of Man and Woman in this gallery.

The Themes of Life are her basis. We live in a moment in time, influenced by the past, influencing the future. The passage of time is constant, the continuity of life seamless. It is the celebration of Life that is deep rooted throughout Mary Bourke's paintings. Life does have uncertainty and peril; these are very real living matters and yet, in the end, Living Matters.


Oil on Canvas
32" x 22"

In this painting the artist has portrayed her twin sons against a theater backdrop, hence the title's comical reference to Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen from Verona. Both boys always enjoyed posing and here we see the artist capturing that adolescent age when the clothes don't seem to fit quite right. The pedestal-like chairs perfectly contribute to the painting's intended awkwardness.



Oil on Canvas
25" x 37"

Childhood can be filled with joy-it can also be filled with pain. This image represents a tension-filled moment in time. The happy child, wrapped up in his own pleasure, is unaware of the abyss below, the future ahead-a double entendre lesson in kite flying.



Oil on Canvas
58" x 35 1/2"

This image is a pendant to the adjacent Portrait of the Artist's Father. The artist has depicted her mother in all of her Fall glory and coloration. She introduced the artist to books, museums, the opera, and plays. She sits in a library in a throne-like setting upon a floral carpet signifying life, continuity, and the passage of time. She gazes at a photograph of a child playing with bubbles. The child is herself and the bubbles represent the ephemeral character of life. The symbolism of the bubble is rooted in the "homo bulla" motive. "Homo bulla" means "man is a bubble" and was a well-known saying in the sixteenth century. This concept is further reinforced in the overhead Dutch Vanitas. The painting's imagery is one of humble reverence and glorifies the continuity of life.



Oil on Canvas
58" x 35 1/2"

This image is a pendant to the adjacent Portrait of the Artist's Mother. The artist's father was a mechanical engineer and was personally moved when engineering merged with art. He is depicted in a robe of bark representing a tree of life. He gazes in reverence at some of the world's greatest engineering masterpieces. The center edifice is the Cathedral of Florence begun in 1296 to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed in 1436 by Filippo Brunelleschi. To its right is the library of Celsus, in Ephesus, Asia Minor, now Turkey built in 117 A.D., and to its left is the Baptistery at Pisa begun in 1152 and completed in 1363. The full-moon setting adds to the painting's inherent meaning for the artist's father died several weeks before the painting was completed.



Oil on Canvas Diptych
Each panel 48" x 48"

Based on Medieval altarpiece traditions, the artist has painted these images in the form of a diptych. The recessional landscapes and the architectural framework carry numerous references to Medieval compositions. The young boy in the left panel is one of the artist's sons. Acting the warrior part with sword in hand he defends the family castle and honor at all costs. As a young man in the right panel, the same child has different interests. The sword now a forgotten entity is left behind as he turns away from the viewer concerned with other interests.



Oil on Canvas
16" x 14"

This image is a pendant to the adjacent A Panoramic Painting. Both paintings are intended as visual jokes. The images are all about the frames--it's the packaging that is important, not the substance. Similar to the frame, the aristocrats are ornate and have a lot of money but not necessarily taste or depth.



Oil on Canvas
20" x 27"

The Baroque era broke from Renaissance traditions of compositional order. Figures were painted in dramatic poses with strong chiaroscuro effects of light and dark. Caravaggio (1573-1610) introduced these pictorial effects in the early 17th Century. The Durch artists Terbruggeghen (1588-1629) and Honthorst (1590-1656) studied Caravaggio's techniques in Rome and brought his style back to Holland influencing Rembrandt (1606-1669) and others. In France, George de La Tour (1590-1652), in some of his most memorable paintings, used candles to light his compositions. His St. Joseph from 1642 in the Louvre and St. Joseph's Dream from 1645 in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes, exemplify these dramatic techniques. The Conspirators and The Conspirators (No. 2) are clearly influenced from these earlier traditions creating a mysterious sinister stillness to the conspirators and their unknown intent. In The Conspirators, the artist has painted a self-portrait and is pictured with one of her twin sons and an attendant knight.



Oil on Wooden Charger Plates
16" Diameters
2006 and 2007

Marriage and wedding portraits are timeless images throughout the history of art. The ancient Menkaure and His Queen (2525 B.C., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), Jan van Eyck's "Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife" (1434, National Gallery of Art, London), and Gilbert Stuart's George and Martha Washington (1796, The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C./ The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) are all iconic examples. Here this theme has been re-interpreted based on the biblical martyrdom of St. John. In every marriage there are sacrifices "for the good of the family" and the artist has characterized herself and her husband as martyrs to that cause. The outer rim of the charger plate is the original wood, the interior is painted in convincing trompe l'oeil. (Husband image not pictured.)



Oil on Canvas
24" x 20"

In this painting the artist has painted herself in Venetian Renaissance dress. She stairs at the viewer with fearful, questioning eyes as to what the future may hold, what the tea leaves will say. Her two sons are depicted over one shoulder while a male image symbolizing her husband is over the other. Reinforcing the painting's element of time, the teacup is a family heirloom.



Oil on Canvas
48" x 60"

This is a fantasy landscape based on New Zealand's topography. The artist has painted her mother and her husband in a magical land where the roads are literally paved in gold, where everything is better. In their casual stroll they are oblivious to the masked dangers that lurk within the forests and waters. Exotic reptiles, lizards and dinosaurs are camouflaged throughout their seemingly peaceful surroundings.



Oil on Twelve Canvas Boards
Each Board

These twelve images represent two years of work for the artist. In pictorial and verse form the tale documents the journey of a young artist who yearns for recognition. In each image she is painted within a well-known art historical setting. For several of the images more than one source is synthesized into an integrated whole. The individual references are listed at the end of this display. Artistic creativity is a gift from God and with it comes rewards and burdens.


The below image, number 9 in the series, carries the following verse.

And yet back then there was no choice.
A female's thoughts should not give voice.
Mary Margaret Eleanor
did what her family would implore.

She then used her three initials,
"M.M.E." to fool officials.
Although it made her poor heart sink
that most would incorrectly think

the book was written by a boy,
she thought it still a clever ploy.


The Artists Studio


The Artist's Materials


Contact: Mr. Barry Bauman
1122 N. Jackson Ave., River Forest, IL. 60305
Ph.(708)771-0382  Fax.(708)771-1532