The thing I love the most about art is its ability to constantly surprise me. Sometimes the artists turn out to be a source of inspiration as well.
That was certainly the case with Ukrainian egg artist and painter MaryJo Cayley. MaryJo creates gorgeous, colorful, elaborately patterned Ukrainian eggs called “pysanky” using a traditional techniques. She also paints large abstract paintings, practices reflexology and writes a little poetry.
My friend Erin suggested checking out her north Fargo studio during the FMVA Studio Crawl this weekend, since every year we try to add at least one studio we haven’t visited before. It was one of the best stops on our studio tour.
MaryJo’s charming Oak Grove Gift Shop and studio is located in a historical home in a quiet neighborhood on the north side of the city. The studio space itself is a stunner, a striking combination of traditional architectural details and her use of rich, vivid color on the walls, oversized canvases and dozens of delicate pysanky.
I came down with a serious case of house envy the second I walked in the door.
MaryJo creates pysanky by drawing complicated designs on the eggs with hot wax and coloring them with dye. She does more traditional designs, like colorful patterns and black and white eggs to honor the dead.
She also reinterprets that traditional technique to striking effect. Some of my favorite pieces in her studio were the graphic black and white peace and love eggs. They’re made using methods a Ukrainian grandmother would recognize, but they feel totally contemporary.
New eggs honoring Prince have also been popular this fall. They’re purple with his symbol painted in white. I was hoping to take a few photos of them, but they’d already sold out. (Don’t worry, she’s already making more.)
When MaryJo gets tired of the painstaking detail work that egg painting requires, she switches it up and starts painting. Her oversized canvases swirl with color and motion. She wants to them be meditative so she tries to keep them as abstract as possible.
Sometimes she gives viewers a little help. The top painting had a rich red, purple and gold color scheme I couldn’t take my eyes off of. The canvas underneath looks less complex at first glance. But MaryJo painted it with glow in the dark animal eyes so it’s interesting even when the lights are out.
MaryJo collaborates with buyers on her canvases and takes special orders for both her paintings and her eggs if you’re looking for a custom design. Pysanky were traditionally created for social occasions, religious occasions, to honor the dead and to bring good luck and protect against evil, so if you’re looking for a reason to bring an old form of folk art into a modern art collection, you’ll have lots of options.
Or you can just pick up her work because it’s colorful and striking, no explanation or cultural reason needed. Loving art because just because it’s beautiful is a perfectly good reason too.
Oak Grove Gift Shop
Featuring art by MaryJo Cayley
702 Elm Street North
What about you?
What do you love about pysanky?
What’s your favorite kind of folk art?
Do you create or collect folk art?
What kind of folk art did your neighbors or ancestors create?
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