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Elaine Paioff Mars



To be posted...



by Maeve Allen

Interview Mars

The Kingston home of artist Elaine Mars acts as a scrapbook, her memories preserved among the walls. Her father's painting of a ship in bursting blue water sits in the dining room in a beautiful gold frame, and on the opposite wall is a drawing her friend Wayne Quinn made of their beloved professor Bolotowsky. In the living room, where Lily-Mae the parrot squawks “Hello!”, a painting Mars did in 1963 of her teenage brother sits in dark blue hues. A look around her house was a peek into her life: filled with travels, friendships and of course, art.

Did your family encourage art?

I come from a long line of artists and musicians. My father was a painter. Surprisingly, my father didn’t encourage me with art. He wanted me to get not just an art education but also a well-rounded education so I wouldn’t end up as a starving artist. An art teacher from high school said she could help me get a scholarship for Pratt Institute but my father wouldn’t sign the application. He found out about New Paltz, which was a teachers college that had a specialty in art.

How has art played a role in your life?

It’s in everything I see, in terms of composition to color. Even when I’m not painting, it’s still a part of me. I still have a painter’s eye even though I’ve painted only in spurts. It has never been a living for me. I’ve lived in California where I initially went for grad school at Stanford. I got my Master’s degree from San Francisco State in rehabilitation counseling and then I had careers in mental health. After I retired, I moved back to the Hudson Valley. I have a lot of lifelong friends there. I’m still waiting to get into my next spurt of painting.

What is your favorite medium to work with?

 After I left New Paltz, I didn’t paint for 29 years. I got back into it when my friends Joanna and her husband visited from England. I was intrigued of the quick little sketches in watercolor she was doing. I was dreaming about painting again. I knew I didn’t want to work with oil, which is what I used when I was a student. I started off by just painting what I saw. Eventually I got frustrated with watercolor, nothing came out dark and opaque enough for me which is why I ended up working with acrylic.

Why was 1959-1963 the Golden Age of New Paltz?

It was invigorating. I would compare it to Paris in the 20s, with all the great artists who knew each other and hung out in cafés. New Paltz was like that! Everyone was fresh out of high school and some were brilliant artists. Most of the guys dropped out of school so they could just paint. They were thriving off each other and learning from each other. It was pure art. We were all constantly painting and learning.

Were there any professors that you learned from that stand out?

Ilya Bolotowsky. He was my mentor and was very inspirational and popular among the students. Besides teaching two dimensional and painting classes, he was also a filmmaker. He made experimental art films and most of us were in his films. He was very encouraging and supportive to all of us.

Did the political climate at that time affect New Paltz?

During the Golden Age, there was definitely awareness of the growing civil rights movement, but there wasn’t any political action that I know of. It was 1960, so we were just coming out of the Eisenhower era. Johnny Mars told me that when he moved to New Paltz from the segregated South in 1957, the students in New Paltz were so welcoming to him.

Did you reunite with any Golden Age artists at the first gallery show?

I was already reunited with most of them but it was amazing to see people’s work again. I’ve always been inspired by Ilya Bolotowsky’s Neoplasticism and Adrian Guillery's use of color and realism. It’s hard to describe Wayne Quinn’s art because it’s a certain look and feeling in his painting. You know, I just mentioned 3 male artists, but of course there were plenty of women artists there too. But back then the guys were the stars. The women tended to be in the background.

Did that bother you, the spotlight on the guys?

It’s just the way things were. New Paltz mirrored society, which was a male dominated world. It shocks me looking back, but I’m excited about the movements going on now.

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