Once you become privy to Marilyn Matherly’s childhood, it is easy to understand why she is an artist.
As a child, she watched her grandmother diligently hand-stitch quilts out of brightly colored scraps of fabric, and she watched her mother and uncle paint. The house was full of classical music, stacks of books checked out from the library, and art.
Inspired by her grandmother’s “rag bag,” Matherly would spread out the rainbow of leftovers and make her own designs, mimicking her mother and uncle’s paintings while allowing her imagination to grow. “My imagination has wings,” Matherly said, “and they are of many colors.”
Matherly went on to fine-tune her imagination, attending Spokane Falls Community College after high school and expanding on her natural talent in dozens of art workshops and private classes. Specializing in water-based mixed media, Matherly creates paintings that resemble quilts, patchworks of color depicting trees ripe with fruit, still-lifes, florals, landscapes, and portraits. Her use of color is stunning and unexpected, sort of like realism in Technicolor.
An active and prolific artist, Matherly has been involved in the Idaho, Palouse and Spokane watercolor societies. She has been hired to do commissions, and has shown in dozens of venues including Colburn’s Gallery and Avenue West Gallery, where she was a member until a health setback. At 77, Matherly thinks the where and when don’t really matter; she is an artist, always has been, the end. “I have no message other than it is what it is,” she said, “Art is in my blood.”
A tour around her Otis Orchards home is testimony to her imagination and “nutty” side as she calls it. One room that looks like it should be a living room is stacked with enough supplies for years and collections of this and that. Two vintage mannequins stand in the corner. Matherly dresses them according to the seasons and has used them as models in the past.
A collection of masks adorn the walls in her home along with her own paintings. She collects other artists’ work because, she said, she knows what goes into it.
Sitting and talking to her over the dining room table that is covered by one of her grandmother’s quilts, it is easy to conclude that her imagination and ability to find beauty and humor in the smallest of things has fueled her over the years. She says she talks to herself and is quick to pat you on the back if you admit to doing the same. Her life is color and joy, things she can’t do without.
Riddled with health issues, Matherly believes that art helps her through every time, thwarting God in a sense. Though she stopped painting a few years ago, she has found another outlet in clay, hand-forming vessels and masks. She joined Spokane Pottery Guild and is eager to show her latest series of masks. “I build things out of my own mind which I learned to do as a child,” she said, “that and being a little nutty has always gotten me through.”
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