Permanent Collection

Mary Proctor: I am Just the Messenger

February 12 - December 10, 2022

Mary Proctor: I am Just the Messenger is a two-site project organized by the Gadsden Arts Center & Museum that presents the artwork of Missionary Mary L. Proctor, a visionary artist who has been making art for the last 25 years. Her work is included in the collections of major U.S. Museums including the Smithsonian, American Visionary Art Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and High Museum of Art.

This exhibition presents Proctor’s special and rarely seen Presidents and First Ladies Series, installed at Gadsden Arts and at the Tallahassee Museum, along with her iconic doors and windows, and a variety of mixed-media art. Work for the exhibition is on loan from the Gadsden Arts Center & Museum Permanent Collection, private collections, and the collection of the artist.

Born to a teenaged mother in Jefferson County, Florida in 1960, Mary Proctor was raised by her grandparents. Like many vernacular and self-taught artists, she can pinpoint the exact moment and reason why she began to paint. In 1994, a fire took the lives of her grandmother, aunt, and uncle. Deeply depressed by her great loss, Proctor found comfort in her Christian faith, and in 1995, Proctor had a vision that told her to get a door and paint. From that day forward, Proctor has taken it upon herself to be a missionary to the world, using doors as passageways to freedom, peace, and comfort, and instilling her paintings with passages from scripture, and glittering angels. She calls herself “Missionary Mary” and uses a myriad of found materials – buttons, sticks, broken pieces of glass, mirrors, plates – to complete her compositions. For Mary, putting together items that are unwanted or broken represents the process of mending.

TheMary Proctor: I am Just the Messenger project continues through December 2022 and will include an oral history and video with the artist, student and adult art-making workshops led by Proctor, Art Talks with our Curator and guest scholars, Field Trips for school and children’s groups, special ArtZone art projects, and Guided Group Visits for adults.

Additional Programming

Self-Taught Artists and National Identity

Zoom Presentation with Katherine Jentleson, The Merrie and Dan Boone Curator of Folk and Self Taught Art, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
Recorded on Thursday September 8, 2022, 1:00pm
Marking the occasion of Mary Proctor: I am Just the Messenger, Dr. Katherine Jentleson, a curator uniquely specialized in self-taught artists, speaks about this increasingly celebrated niche within American art. Reflecting on Proctor’s President and First Ladies Series, Jentleson will discuss the prevalence of historical subjects in the work of self-taught artists and their unique relationship to national cultural identity. 

Made possible by the Gadsden Arts Impact Fund

Tallahassee Museum, Tallahassee, Florida
Presidents of the United States Series
On display: April 15 – September 30, 2022

Artwork by Mary Proctor

Mary Proctor, Once Again I Fall Down..., 1997, mixed media, 14.5 x 19 inches, Gadsden Arts Permanent Collection, Gift of Calynne and Lou Hill, 2009.1.10

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. If you have any question about whether your product requires this statement, please contact the Office of Communications at 202-653-4757.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.