Mary lives on her own, out in the Midwest, and even though she's 85 years old she's incredibly active. On Wednesdays, she visits the beauty shop for her weekly shampoo and set. When she gets home, she reads or plans her next trip abroad. She enjoys collecting teacups and wearing hats, though the latter serve an important purpose: protecting her hair.
"She's a go-er," says her only child, daughter Carol Dass. "Probably going to out-go me."
For now, though, Dass is keeping up: A series of photographs she took of her mother are a part of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center multidisciplinary project, Families. It encompasses, among many things, Other Desert Cities in the theater, and another art exhibit, a sprawling collection of family-related art from the Progressive Art Collection.
On a February afternoon, Dass, a senior instructor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, sits in the gallery where the 27 images are hung. As she explains each piece, it's easy to feel like we're following Mary around as she picks up groceries, visits her doctor, or spends an afternoon shopping.
And, of course, we are. "That's what I do," Dass says with a laugh.
Since her dad, Mary's husband, died a decade ago, mother and daughter have become much closer.
Being a photographer, Dass is never without a camera, and Mary's a very accommodating model. She's certainly naturally expressive. For "Talk Radio," in which she lies on her bed listening to her beloved radio, she exudes peace and calm, unknowing of the snapshot being taken above her.
It's Dass, however, who picks just the right moments to zoom in; she calls them "vignettes of the day." Mary watching a rainstorm, or eating a peach. Peering into a dollhouse, or sleeping in her nightcap and housecoat.
"There is that, just, day-to-day-ness of it," she says.
The question everyone asks is how her mom feels about the exhibition. And Dass isn't sure.
"Obviously [the pictures are] incredibly personal," she says. "On some level, there's a piece of me, of course, that is like, 'Do I need to be sharing this?' But yet ... I think a lot of people can approach them and feel like they can relate."
FAC assistant curator Joy Armstrong, who is heading up the visual art portion of Families, agrees. It was the interplay between the personal and the universal that drew Armstrong to the series.
"It's so familiar [that] even though I don't know Carol's mom, it doesn't matter that I don't know her specifically," she says. "The memory is real."
While viewers may relate to Mary as their own maternal figure, for Dass the show is an exercise in seeing the non-mom side of Mary's life: the woman who taught school, who traveled Europe as a young woman and had adventures.
"I'm just looking at her with new eyes."
So proud of you Catherine!!! I knew you could do it!!!
I read an early draft of Ghostland in 2014 that was written by Jon Orr…