Picture of the Week: Untitled (Seated Female Model) by Mary L. Aro

September 10, 2023

Mary L Aro (Untitled Female Model) 1979, watercolor, 14 x 11 in.

Mary Louise Cromar Aro is a Detroit-born artist and Wayne State University alumna. She was born in Detroit in 1929 and earned her MFA from Wayne State in 1982. Throughout her practice, Aro has developed a unique iteration of realism, one that includes “a strong sense of abstract space and form.” Often working with watercolor, she also constructed her trademark composition; Aro frequently divides the picture plane by utilizing a white background to separate figures or objects from the landscape. She is now retired but continues to create artwork. Aro works in her living-room studio, where she also studies and combines “the various elements of her multi-part works,” and experiments with “new imagery in oil.” 

Aro composed her watercolor portrait Untitled (Seated Female Model) in 1979: three years before she graduated from Wayne State. Perhaps 1979 is the year that Aro began her MFA program. She juxtaposes a woman dressed in dark and bold colors with a neutral background. Aro incorporates varying shades of gray and brown to create a grid pattern on the wall, along with what appears to be a light brown rug lying over a dark gray floor. Her use of watercolor allows her to build up each color ever so slightly. This neutral background may serve as a precursor to her iconic technique of dividing objects or pictures from the landscape using a white background. 

The woman seated in the foreground raises many questions for the viewer. She faces forward with her eyebrows slightly raised, yet her eyes appear glazed over. Aro’s shading creates bags under her eyes, evoking an exhausted look. The woman rests her arms on the armrest with her legs diagonal to her torso. Her shoe is sprawled out on the rug beneath her, leaving her red sock exposed. Perhaps she had just reached the end of a draining day and was in the middle of taking off her shoes to relax. There is also a red book right under one of the legs of the chair, discarded as though it could offer nothing valuable to the woman. We do not know the woman’s name, where she is sitting, why she looks so tired, or what book she lost interest in. Aro leaves all this information up to the audience, inviting them to interpret the woman’s story however they wish. 

Written by Angela Athnasios

Sources: https://theturtlegallery.com/section/282577-Mary%20Aro.html



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