Muralist Mary Lacy Offers Smaller-Scale Paint Puzzles | Visual Art | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Muralist Mary Lacy Offers Smaller-Scale Paint Puzzles


Published December 11, 2019 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated December 13, 2019 at 11:49 a.m.

Mary Lacy's butterfly Paint Puzzle - COURTESY OF MARY LACY
  • Courtesy Of Mary Lacy
  • Mary Lacy's butterfly Paint Puzzle

Mary Lacy is best known for going big. In 2015, she painted a jewel-toned hummingbird that's roughly 28 feet tall on the brick wall of the building on the corner of St. Paul and College streets in downtown Burlington. Later that year, she covered all 3,200 square feet of the silos at the offices in the South End with bright, abstracted shapes. And in 2016 she embarked on a 10-month tour across the country — painting 10 murals in places as far flung as El Paso, Texas, and Portland, Ore. — and wrapped it up with a trout mural in Bethel.

But Lacy's newest work is of an entirely different scale — one that's accessible to anyone who would like to take home her art. She's selling what she calls Paint Puzzles: laser-cut wooden puzzles in two designs derived from her murals. The puzzles — one of an elephant and one of a butterfly — are made of unfinished birch wood that can be painted. They're "paint-your-own Mary Lacys," as the 28-year-old Burlington artist puts it.

The puzzles, Lacy makes clear, aren't just for kids. (In fact, the assembly of the abstract polygon puzzle pieces might totally stump youngsters.) She believes adults might paint them as a no-pressure foray into art making over a glass of wine; teenagers might paint them with friends.

Mary Lacy's elephant Paint Puzzle - COURTESY OF MARY LACY
  • Courtesy Of Mary Lacy
  • Mary Lacy's elephant Paint Puzzle

"I used my dad as a guinea pig for one of these puzzles, and I've never seen him paint in my life. It was hilarious, and we had the best time," Lacy said. "Toward the end, he was getting really into it, and he painted these big, sweeping eyelashes — one eye closed and one eye open — and it totally made the piece ... We were all blown away by these eyelashes. I didn't know my dad had that in him."

The elephant is patterned after some that Lacy painted in Chester, Pa., in 2016; the butterfly after one she painted at the Jericho Town Library this fall. Lacy's studio assistant, recent Burlington High School grad Kaitlyn Blaise, helps her cut the $50 puzzles at the Generator maker space. Buyers can purchase them on Lacy's website.

Lacy's work has always had a community element. On her mural tour, she sometimes set up a paint-by-numbers station, where local residents could add to the mural itself within her broader vision. When that wasn't possible — such as in Chester, where the wall was too tall and narrow — she made 20 smaller plywood versions of an elephant for kids to decorate.

Mary Lacy's blank Paint Puzzles - COURTESY OF MARY LACY
  • Courtesy Of Mary Lacy
  • Mary Lacy's blank Paint Puzzles

Lacy also co-taught a class at the Integrated Arts Academy in Burlington in 2016 that used murals to help teach math skills. Students drew butterflies on a coordinate grid, and then used math calculations to scale them up into larger pictures.

Lacy's art career began with murals, but over the past few years she also started producing works that can be displayed in galleries. This shift began when she was experimenting with glass mosaics two years ago. But her more recent works have also been informed by an unwelcome development: a concussion, about a year ago, which made doing on-site, large-scale murals "out of the question" for several months, she said.

"I think all artists need to pull back at times to do some exploration. For me, I think that was really present, because I was doing so much work in public," Lacy said. "[The injury has] held me accountable to do the thing that I said I was going to do, which is pull back from the public eye for a second ... It's caused me to slow down in a way that nothing has before."

  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Mary Lacy

In 2018, Lacy had an exhibition called "Pollination" at the Karma Bird House Gallery in Burlington that featured hand-cut glass mosaics and paintings of flowers, bees and birds. She's currently developing a new body of work by creating mosaics with ceramic pieces. Visually, all of the mosaics seem like a natural extension of her tile-like painting style, but Lacy said she had a serious learning curve to cutting glass.

"I felt the brush was like an extension of my hand," she said. "So when I was starting to cut glass, it was like, This is a different hand."

Lacy is planning another Burlington gallery show in September 2020. In the meantime, she hopes sales of Paint Puzzles will support her and her work. And she continues to accept mural commissions: She was finally able to return to large-scale work over the summer, and painted two murals in Texas. She'll do another in Burlington next summer, though she wouldn't reveal the exact location.

"That's always a part of me," Lacy said of painting murals. "I'm not out of the game."

The original print version of this article was headlined "Muralist Mary Lacy Offers Take-Home Paint Puzzles in Her Signature Style"