A child's half-finished chalk drawing. The chaotic elegance of scattered pine needles. The leaf-shaped shadows chiseled by Hurricane Sandy. Most people hurriedly trample over these simple wonders found on our city's sandstone walkways. In her Sidewalks exhibit at Bonfoey Gallery Oct.11-Nov. 19, Cleveland-based watercolorist Mary Lou Ferbert shows that beauty is always underfoot if you stand still long enough.
Q: Why did you decide on sidewalks as the focus of your latest series?
A: Cleveland was a saltwater sea 360,000 years ago, and that's what made the sandstone sidewalks. They're becoming an endangered species. When they get cracked and replaced by cement, you're losing all that wonderful history. I feel it's my mission as an artist to bring people's attention to things that they overlook. I would like to teach people how to see beauty in the commonplace. If you can find beauty, it can change your life.
Q: How do you choose your subjects?
A: I don't choose my subjects. My subjects choose me. I was walking at night [in Rocky River] for the one I call Tapestry. It literally stopped me in my tracks. I knew I had to paint it. It was a pain in my ass, one of the worst paintings I've painted for a long time, because in watercolor, you don't paint pine needles — you paint around them. But I had to paint it. It chose me.
Q: At 89, you're still creating amazing pieces that take months to complete. How do you do it?
A: It's a complicated, time-consuming process. I average 24 to 30 hours a week. I take a rest in the afternoon and take the weekends off. I don't want to make myself seem like a superhuman. But I have to have a purpose to my days. With my family out of town ... it gives me purpose.