National Museum of Women in the Arts
Mary Lou Ferbert
September 21 1924 - present
Photograph of Mary Lou Ferbert, courtesy of the artist
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
MAIR-ee loo FERR-berrt
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Drawings and prints, Painting
Artistic Role(s):
Painter, Printmaker, Watercolorist
Artist's Statement:
For almost forty years I have prowled Cleveland’s Flats, the throbbing heart of the city that once was a power engine of the Industrial Revolution—shipping, steel production, manufacturing,… In this unique culture I find inspiration for my painting.

As the country moved away from an industrial economy, the Flats aged. With age comes change. Influences in my life affected a change for me… my perception of the aggressive, adaptable urban flora…“weeds”...that invade older, biologically-sterile engineered environments. The survival of wild city plants in such hostile habitats was the message I wanted to convey in the Urban Botany Series.

An encounter with a window inspired a subset in the series. Early one morning in the summer of 1986, I chanced upon a large glass block window in an obviously abused, abandoned building. Sunlight striking the wavy surfaces of the glass created wondrous effects. And then, to find a parsnip seedling just established a foothold in the crumbling mortar of the brick sill, I had all the necessary ingredients for my concept of adaptation and survival. The sighting launched my Glass Block paintings.

Glass block is an inert construction material, yet light can energize what is seen within its rigid perimeter. The undulating planes of the body of the glass freeze a moment of time in a square of space. The distorted images within each square alter with any imperceptible shift of viewpoint; shapes dissolve and reconfigure; new ones are created. The unpredictable changes captivate the imagination. The space on the far side is visually and intellectually impenetrable. A single glass block is magical. A whole wall of glass blocks mesmerized me. Years of exposure to their chameleon-like idiosyncrasies have made glass blocks my metaphor for immortality.

I have been single-minded in my devotion to watercolor. It makes my heart sing in spite of the vagaries inherent in the medium. The lyric qualities of the pigment as it flows from a charged brush; the record of the process seen in the layered, transparent washes; the potential for power, energy, vitality and drama; the quiet gentleness: these attributes captivated me years ago and my enthusiasm has never waned. Most of the evolution in my painting…subject, size, color, perspective, strength…can be attributed to my sincere belief that watercolor is a medium for major artistic expression.

Statement courtesy of Mary Lou Ferbert

Other Occupation(s):
Author, Instructor, Teacher
Place(s) of Residence:
Where Trained/Schools:
The Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, OH, USA (1995, 1968-1978) School of Medicine, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA (1945-1947)
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Signature Artist, American Diabetes Association Celebrity Art Auction Gala, Cleveland, OH, USA (2002) Gene Alden Walker Memorial Award, National Association of Women Artists, New York, NY, USA (2001) Honored Member, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club, Inc., New York, NY, USA (1998)
Earliest exhibition:
Ohio Women Artists Past and Present, The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH, USA (1976)
Eggs at the Market, 1983
Grapevine and Old Warehouse, 1991
Sea/Shore IV, 2004
Wild Parsnip and Glass Blocks, 1993
Wild Parsnip & Glass Blocks