Sadly the only time I’ve seen Dilworth’s art exhibited was at Atlanta’s High Museum in the late 60s. Yep, I’m talking last century. One piece, an approximately 40 inches in diameter granite peach, was partly sliced open exposing part of the peach’s pit. Not surprisingly it was titled a Georgian Peach. Keep in mind this was a decade before someone followed with Steel Magnolia. The peach was highly polished granite which is, of course, how Georgia women like at least to think of ourselves. I was surprised and quite proud as I read the name of the artist. We had gone to undergrad together in the 50s. Actually I went to the High that day to see a painting by another well known Georgia artist, Ann Osteen, from my hometown.
Hartwell is fortunate, particularly for any sophisticated art connoisseurs in the area. One of our country’s most gifted artists, Mary Lula Dilworth resides there. Hartwell will have an exhibition of her works and only hers, a one woman show. She’s done her civic and regional duty often acting as judge and allowing pieces shown in Hartwell, Anderson and other fortunate spots in the area. However, October 1 some new pieces never before displayed will be seen.
One of my favorites was featured in Vivian Morgan’s excellent June 16th Hartwell Sun article on Mary Lula and her works. The canvas is of several women and the topmost face, about 2nd from left must be her self portrait. It looks as she did in her youth. Excellent likeness. The 3rd from left also intrigues me. It seems to be someone I don’t know at all but at the same time I know dozens of women who look just like her and they all have an identical personality. They present themselves attractively almost identical to some prototype. That face’s right ear is clearly non-functional, indicating a common feature of that personality type. The 1st face with its collared neck doesn’t intrigue me at all, possibly because of her obvious bondage status. Yet the hand/arm with the possibility that the collar is also around a wrist does... there’s a lot of geometry in that face. That piece is an example of why Dilworth is one of America’s foremost artists; the more you look, the more you find. The apparent nose, to the left of the first eye begs the question is it phallus instead. Before I could resolve that I was struck by the recurring possibility that the eye’s position and shape was not unlike testicular. In fact, all the noses and eyes on those faces are. Keep in mind that Art Appreciation can reveal more about the observer than the artist.
Another of my favorites she admits took 47 years to complete and I have personally known that wooden sculpture since it was merely one of many trees bull-dozed to construct I-285. About 1970 I received an excited phone call from her telling me she had just saved some trees. Being a lifelong tree-huger; literally so, usually in order to not fall as I loved to climb them. Then as a Biology major in undergrad, I studied under Botanist Dr. Donald Caplenor and much later once had myself a three storied home built completely around an ancient sycamore. So I was impressed by Mary’s rescue. Never knew she gave a fig about trees. Of course, as a tree-huger I was less impressed to discover she ‘saved’ them after they’d been bull-dozed. She was ecstatic at the prospect of using them for wood sculptures.I have looked at that former tree several times through the years and the progress of her sculpturing of it. Last time I saw ‘the tree’ it was a voluptuous nude, though obviously quite gravid female. It too was pictured in the Hartwell Sun’s story... Wood sculpturing has a strength requirement that few women, even as young adults, would undertake and Dilworth is 82. Impressive again, but no surprise. She takes roads her art requires her to take. She was the only woman ever known to enroll and gloriously complete Industrial Arts at our Alma Mater .