Though she was born in Texas and began her artistic training there, it is central Pennsylvania that has been home to Mary Cady-Rubinstein for most of her adult life, and that has become a strong presence in her work. Pieces of wood, sometimes found on walks up the mountain near her house in Reedsville, are carved into three-dimensional forms: from a piece of sycamore comes a swan; from hollowed-out walnut, a human figure; from cherry wood, a dog. In these forms, worked free from the wood by her carving knives and gouges, trees that have been cut down “after growing for ages and ages” can live on, Cady-Rubinstein says. This respect for the organic qualities of wood is carried into another means of expression—the painted wood reliefs that she began making twenty years ago. Cady-Rubinstein developed a painstaking process for her “boards,” which, she says, cannot be categorized neatly as either sculpture or painting. Working from a drawing, she cuts into the boards, careful to follow the grain, “which changes constantly.” After the forms have been cut out, she applies a coat of gesso, then layers of acrylic paints, to make a glowing surface. And across the boards’ surfaces, the rich compilations of imagery—central Pennsylvania scenes merging with scenes from Greek mythology merging with biblical merging with literary images—reveal a deeply informed and vividly alive artistic imagination, worked into the wood.

Mary Cady-Rubinstein, whose training has included an MFA from the University of Iowa and study at the Art Students League of New York under William Zorach, has exhibited widely and received many awards for her work.

Image: Mary Cady-Rubinstein, Pennsylvania Styx, painted wood relief, 2006, 23 ½" x 36". Image courtesy of the artist.