"The images are personal revelations," she explains. "Layer builds upon layer, and the paint tells the stories of my experience." Working in textures of acrylic on claybord, she uses the metaphors of the land and the dwellings upon it, as well as every day objects and their surroundings, to express herself.
An interior designer by profession, Van Kampen believes that what people choose to do with their living environments is really about their inner view of themselves. For her, painting is the same; she began creating art in response to a serious illness, and through the process discovered an innate sense of gratitude and hopefulness.
Like the winding country road in her piece, "Finding My Way," Van Kampen has navigated serpentine terrain, spending many years unsure of what would be around the next corner. "I learned to live with the unknown," she says. "For me, the only way to do that was to focus on the positive." Recently, she was declared cancer free, news that is having a ripple effect throughout her work. "I’m painting from a different point of view now, but you can’t have a present without a past," she reflects. "I am a survivor, complete with scars."
Van Kampen’s optimism is evident in landscapes that often are described as whimsical and warm. Influenced by time spent living in Europe, she renders the countryside in bold, earthy, Old World colors, and populates the land with anthropomorphic buildings, structures and vegetation that seem ready to burst with personality. Particularly important to her, though, are the dwellings. Every one is a symbol with its own charming imperfections; individual idiosyncrasies raise questions for each viewer to discover and interpret. Balance, boundaries and belonging are recurrent themes.
Sharing time between homes in Holland, Michigan, and Taos, New Mexico, Van Kampen feels affected by her surroundings and notices that her color choices, shading and use of light vary with where she is physically, as well as emotionally. During long, uninterrupted sessions in her desert studio, she relies almost entirely on the natural sunlight of Taos, which is known for its clarity and softness. She achieves visual harmony through a deliberate interplay of color temperatures, but warm tones and familiar-feeling patinas permeate her work.
Mary Van Kampen continues her foray into self-expression by painting figures, birds, abstracts and singular everyday objects. Whether she is considering the antics of a raven, nesting baskets or old wooden houses she finds a connection to her own inner journey. This is her way of not taking the ordinary for granted.