Mary Jane Volkmann

Mary Jane Volkmann: A Short Biography

Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Mary Jane Volkmann studied art education at university before traveling in 1974 to southern Africa where she remained to live and work for 28 years. Her artistic career has included commissions as varied as art workshops, portraits of an African king, coin designs, seven issues of postage stamps (two issues of which have won world awards), book illustrations, greeting card designs, murals and paintings for private collectors. A commissioned book, “Glimpses of Namibian Life: A Moment in Time” consisting of 30 of her paintings depicting life in Namibia among the native peoples of the country and authored by her was published in 1997. Active in the community, Mary Jane co-founded an educational and charitable trust in northern Namibia with a regional center for the development of the arts and crafts skills of talented Namibians, providing a means for them to market their wares and earn a living. Relocating with her family to Gainesville, Florida, in 2002, Mary Jane is a signature member of Plein Air Florida, has participated in various invitational plein air events, and in 2006 was selected as Artist in Residence, Sapelo Island, for the Georgia State Parks. Currently focusing on portraiture and landscapes, she continues to undertake commissions and teach painting workshops.
 “My work is an attempt to portray my sense of wonder and appreciation of the beauty and interdependence of the diverse faces of nature and our human family.”

A bit more….

“My parents instilled in me a sense of wonder.  One of my earliest memories as a little child is of my father waking me from a deep sleep and carrying me outside on his shoulders to see a big rainbow.  I couldn’t see the rainbow but I do remember the strange green light emanating from the sky.  Just next to our kitchen my mother had placed a little table on which was a lamp, plenty of paper and my own special box of colored crayons.  While she prepared dinner I would sit and draw, making up stories and imagining different scenarios.  When I would ask her how to draw something she would answer me with questions and then take me outside to look.  Family trips were full of explorations and observations about the world around us, including the old “I spy something…. blue…crooked….ragged…” – or whatever.  Our attic, including the ceiling, was wallpapered in travel posters from around the world.  I particularly remember one long one, an advertisement for milk, which was a photograph of the children of the world in traditional costumes stretched out and holding hands across a high meadow.  Not only did these experiences instill an insatiable curiosity within me, they ignited a passion for looking at the world around me in all its varied expressions, whether the silhouette of a tree twisted against the evening sky or the hills and valleys etched upon a human face.  I find the greatest delight in being amazed at how a landscape can be transformed by both the time of day and the sudden changes of light and color when the weather can’t make up its mind and sets up a dance between the sun and the clouds.  When I paint a face or a figure I ask myself so many questions about what it might be like to be that person, wherever in the world that might be.

There is a lovely passage which reads: “O my friend, listen with heart and soul to the songs of the spirit, and treasure them as thine own eyes.”* When I pick up my brush, I find myself inspired by these words and metaphorically listening for those songs, wondering where my process will take me and what I might discover on the journey. ”


“Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names and made it
a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes…”   ~Baha’i Writings

*Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 37 


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