First published: Winter 1999/2000
Driving the Woodville Highway, outside Tallahassee, Florida, you'll pass the usual assortment of nondescript fast food restaurants, the occasional massage parlor, a handful of auto body shops.
However, there is one sight that will make you pull to the side of the road and investigate. It's an environment – garage doors, interior doors, seven-foot lengths of utility poles, sculptures made of old bicycles, animals made of wire in the trees and on the roofs of the small buildings on the property. What you've stumbled across is the home of visionary artist Mary Proctor, her workshop, studio, and home gallery. She calls her environment the American Folk Art Museum and Gallery, but the primary exhibit is always Mary Proctor. From her signature works – paintings rendered on large household panel doors up to 84 inches long – to her welcoming and optimistic personality, the gallery is the primary tool of Mary Proctor and what she considers her ministry.
For years, Mary owned and operated Noah's Ark Flea Market; the name and the animals around her museum and gallery suggest her affinity for all of what she calls 'the Lord's creations.' Before turning to painting, Mary collected buttons, bottle caps, doll parts, costume jewelry, watches, and thousands of other small objects, filling her shop and her home with the small trinkets without having a specific purpose in mind. Then, in 1995, she says, the purpose was given to her in a vision.