Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Monday, January 25, 2016

You Asked, no. 5: Mary by the seasons

Detail (!) from Mary Bullington, "The Devil's in the Details, Mr. Hicks"
"And the Little Child with tiger, adder and gigantic beetle." -Mary

And this is also the Bullington-Youmans interview party, no. 1:  
In response to a request to interview some of my painter friends, I have been interviewing Mary Boxley Bullington. As she, in turn, insisted on interviewing me, a part of the You Asked series will be composed of our questions to each other. Asker credit goes to Beth Adams! I'll be talking to other painters as well, some of them on my doorstep. 


If someone asked me what quality is most fundamental to Mary Bullington's paintings and collages, I would say energy--that life riots through your work. When, as occasionally happens, you fall into abeyance, what slows you down?

Winter. And Summer. Literally--perhaps because of my schedule. I finish a body of work and have an open house in December, do the Christmas-present thing and wrap and ship, then either get sick and/or hibernate through most of January. (This January it was an "and.") And while I usually work well through the early summer, the heat and humidity in Virginia get to me by July. This summer I did a picture at the end of July that I called "Thank God July is finally over." (Will go see if I can hunt a photo of it up--. It got destroyed later. Or rather cut into two pieces--bottom half odd but may be viable. Don't like the top any more. Got painted spring green and became too sweet without the bottom 2/3ds.)

After a 3-week lull, I'm rusty and half-asleep, but I know the only way to get over that is to go back into the studio and start putting in some hours every day, like it or not. In this way I begin to work my way back until all of a sudden work is pouring out of me again 3 months later. At that point, I usually have a show, and have to decide which pieces are worthy and finish up odds and ends. This slows me back down. So there's a rhythm to my energy and the rhythm is usually seasonal.

"The Devil's in the Details, Mr. Hicks," 2014. 
Mixed media collage of painted and monoprinted papers 
on paper mounted on masonite, 22" x 28." 
Collection of D. Powell, Roanoke, VA.


  1. So there's a rhythm to my energy and the rhythm is usually seasonal.

    Here is someone who understands life and the seasons.
    Magic, Mary. Magic.

    1. Hi Paul, I was bemoaning the slack time in my process to an older artist friend, who said, simply, "You are not a robot." This helped. But in the midst of summer or winter doldrums, I sometime wish I had a bot I could send into the studio--to clean it up, if nothing else!

    2. Okay, now I've thought of another question...

    3. Love this idea! Now that I've started a blog again, on my new webpage,, I should interview someone. Maybe both of you, and have a three-way interview.

    4. Well, I wouldn't propose that for a while yet. It sounds too much like re-inventing the wheel at the moment! I doubt you want something overlapping...

      Why don't you write some things about / do some interviews with poets and artists in your corner of the world, now that you've gotten back into poetry for some years and have done so much with area writers and live events? Would be interesting to them and others, I expect.

      Will take a look at your blog later--working on a commission and a ms. now.

  2. Thanks for popping by to see Mary's first reply, Paul Digby!

  3. In good interviews the questions are as entertaining as the answers (which isn't intended to slight Mary Boxley; merely to accord the two of you equal attention).

    Good interviews should offer me opportunities for plagiarism: thus "riot" as a verb and MB's "became too sweet". And another day's plundering draws to an end.

    1. Well, Mary gets to turn her questions on me next time... And we probably know way too much about each other, so that makes it curious.

  4. My first question for Marly(much more pedestrian than the one Marly asked me): 1. How on earth did you find time to write all those books while having and raising 3 children?

    (Tune in tomorrow for her answer!)

  5. Marly, I know too little about art, but I will venture a critical reaction which I intend as a compliment and hope is not an error: primal, raw, and evocative. Yes, those three words describe what I see and experience.

    1. I think Mary would like that--she has a number of different modes, but her work is always unmistakably Mary B.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.