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Harvesting Your Canvas

Aug 12, 2019 05:28PM ● By Deborah Goodman

Artist and California native Mary Beth Hogue has taken her artist’s sensibilities to a unique and stunning level. The West Mountain resident uses dried gourds as her canvas, embellishing and accentuating their natural weight and lines.

Hogue’s pieces are breathtaking in their nuanced textures and earthen colors. She uses many mediums to embellish the gourds, including painting, carving, and beading.

She has been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers, as well as a Utah County art book.

Hogue has obtained spots in the coveted Spring Salon at the Springville Museum of Art and has appeared in exhibits in Park City, as well as art museums in New Mexico and Arizona. The community college in Salt Lake City purchased some of her pieces to display in their art hall. Hogue even has two gourds in the permanent collection of the Washington D.C. Botanical Gardens.

The self-taught artist’s pieces are one of a kind.  “I carve, paint, stain, weave, and inlay the gourds,” Hogue says.

Hogue first got the idea to use gourds when she went to a leather store in Provo in 1998. She was there to buy leather for a mountain man camp when some raw dried gourds caught her eye. She bought six of them and did her magic, embellishing them and turning them into pieces of art. A shop owner on Park City’s Main Street was so impressed she bought all six to sell in her store.

“I am inspired by nature and love taking my art pieces from seeds planted to gourd canvas,” Hogue says.

Hogue’s art is a long, arduous process and a study in patience.  Sometimes she purchases gourds from farms, but most of these blank canvases are grown by her husband, Mike. The gourds take a whole year to grow and dry. She starts the process around Mother’s Day each year when her seedlings sprout. Then, around Halloween time, after the first frost, she can harvest the gourds.

The Hogues lose about half of the gourds they grow. Utah’s climate doesn’t make it easy for her to produce the gourds. Heat is needed for them to cure and dry.

This work requires care and caution. Hogue explains, “when working on gourds, there are safety issues from them being moldy inside sometimes. You need to wear a dust mask and take precautions before cutting into them.”

The mother of six is now a grandmother and great grandmother. She has a shop and lives in West Mountain with her husband, where she raises dogs, cats, chickens, and mini goats. She is also a songwriter and guitar player.

She believes that both art and music are good ways to keep balance and overcome depression. Certainly, her pieces are infused with a natural spirituality that can’t be described. Hogue believes “we are all spiritual beings on a human journey.”

Her current passion is working to save wild horses from being inhumanely gathered by helicopter and separated from their family bands. (Goodman is a Serve Daily contributor.)