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In Arts & Entertainment

Blood work.

In Arts & Entertainment

The art of blood.

In Arts & Entertainment

Mary Overman's art is viewable in Madison.

Local artist pumped about blood paintings


After painting with oils for nearly 10 years, artist Mary Overman says she felt a widening gap between her environment, values and art-making. So in 2008, she started experimenting with environmentally-sound materials such as fibers and animal parts, primarily rabbit collagen and cow blood.

"I was a vegetarian then," says Overman. "I was surprised by the sense of guilt. I've never butchered an animal before and I felt a lack of responsibility for my actions."

So, after a year, Overman stopped painting with cow blood because she could no longer justify it based on her beliefs. However, after eight years as a vegetarian, Overman started experiencing fainting spells and consequently decided to change her diet. She started eating meat.

"My life and my work changed when I began eating meat and I decided to return to using blood in my paintings," she says.

Overman created many paintings with blood and currently is showing 16 of these pieces in a show, "We Are Dust, Like The Moon," which runs through March 5 at the Lakefront On Langdon Gallery on the first floor of the Memorial Union at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The gallery is open Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to midnight.

As the exhibitions coordinator at the Walker's Point Center for the Arts, Overman says showing her work at WPCA would be a conflict of interest.

Overman, who is 27, grew up in West Allis. At the age of 15, she received a scholarship from the Rotary Club of West Allis to do a one-month study abroad in Igualada, Spain.

While attending the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Overman studied abroad in Thailand. She also returned to Spain for a four-month stint. Overman, who received a BFA from Stout, taught a life drawing class at Chestnut Avenue Center for the Arts in Marshfield. She currently lives in Riverwest.

Although no longer a vegetarian, Overman is very conscious – almost reverent – of the fact that she uses animal remnants as her choice medium. She believes it generates conversation on an almost spiritual level – as a means to talk about cyclical time, the sacrifice that an animal makes for humans, rebirth and death.

"This fixation with death lies at the root of so much of what we do and think," she says. "I'm still working to reconcile my values, my choice of materials and my approach to obtaining those materials."

Overman obtains the cow blood from butchers.

"There are people in the area who purchase cow's blood for things like blood pudding or blood sausage," she says.

Blood as a "paint" has an immediate impact on people. Overman says it produces a strong reaction for many reasons, primarily because of personal experience, the vibrancy of the color and the fact our bodies are filled with it. It suggests wounds and menstruation; both illness and health simultaneously.

Viewers often question the source of the blood, especially considering she does not disclose that she uses cow blood when displaying. And although she expects there will be some public criticism for her choice of medium, so far the response to her show has been positive.

"However, my audience thus far has primarily been those active or educated in the visual arts. For those familiar with contemporary art and art history, I don't think it comes across as a strange deviation or has as much shock value as for those who aren't as acquainted with the contemporary art world," she says.

Talkbacks

Hello1234 | Feb. 5, 2013 at 11:10 a.m. (report)

There obviously is some sort of shock value Scotbear. Look how upset you are over the pieces. She predicted that it would impact people in one way or another and that is exactly what happened (i.e. your reaction).

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TosaJim | Feb. 5, 2013 at 10:16 a.m. (report)

I love meat too....not so much your "art".....shows very little talent or creativity.

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AndrewJ | Feb. 5, 2013 at 9:22 a.m. (report)

I wonder if this is a new "thing"... just saw a Criminal Minds episode a week or two ago where the perp was a blood painter.

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scotbear8175 | Feb. 5, 2013 at 5:26 a.m. (report)

Stupid....if there is a point to creating in unusual media, it's a closely-guarded secret known only to its creator. The rest of us-notsomuch. No shock value; just yuck value.

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