watercolor sketch by  Jennifer Neel

watercolor sketch by Jennifer Neel

Artist Statement & Bio

Mary Leone, MFA

The 20th century philosopher and theologian Han Urs von Balthasar wrote, “The first prerequisite for understanding is to accept what is given just as it offers itself.” In her artwork, Mary seeks to be faithful to the truth of reality, to be honest to the givenness of things. She creates not with an aim toward expressing herself for her own sake, but one of moving closer to the visual world and the meaning it holds. She believes that it is not enough to work from general ideas about how things ought to appear. This has the sometimes unsettling consequence that she cannot know how a painting will look until it is finished: it is essential to her artistic process to seek to remove her own agenda, her own thoughts on what the painting “should be,” in order to paint with greater freedom, honesty to her experience, and care towards the world around her.

Mary cares deeply for the particular, for the subtlety and detail of a subject, and looks to the particularity of a subject in order move towards the character of its life, and towards the universal. This is not to say that she seeks a photographic likeness in her paintings, but that she understands reality as demanding careful, often quiet, attention if it is to be approached in painting. Her painting is driven by a search for the essential—one that is bound to the particularities of a subject. In this sense she sees the act of painting as a kind of communication between artist and subject. It is not one-sided, or consumptive, but deeply conversational. Like Flannery O’Connor, she sees art as incarnational.


Mary was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In 2019, she received an MFA in Painting from the Marchutz School of Fine Arts at the American College of the Mediterranean, Aix-en-Provence, France. Prior to studying in Aix-en-Provence, Mary received an MA in Philosophy from KU Leuven in Belgium (2017), and a BA in English and Philosophy from Grove City College in Pennsylvania (2016). Mary has loved drawing and painting her whole life; she would like to especially acknowledge and thank her grandmother, Diane Leone, for sharing her love of painting with Mary as a young child.

Click here to see her work.