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Inspiration Inspired by Annie Oakley


Shea Stanfield
Arts Columnist

For local artist Mary Wolke, the words Cave Creek evoke images of one of the historic West’s most admired female figures: Annie Oakley. Mary has embraced Annie’s spirit of adventure, independence, and incomparable skill with a firearm in her newest series honoring the “Cowgirl.”

Armed her own fringed suede jacket, boots, and wild brimmed hat, Mary’s images, shot by her husband, became her first model for the newly inspired series. From that point on, the cowgirls leaped to life. Mary normally works in watercolor, but she wanted to depart from the traditional watercolor techniques and glass-framed images and move to surfaces the viewers would feel free to touch. In addition, she wanted to achieve a leather look on her surfaces. 

Through extensive research and making inquiries of medium manufactures, Mary was able to achieve the desired results by mixing and matching matte, gloss, gel mediums, and varnishes to attain just the right look and feel for the finished surfaces. She then incorporated her traditional watercolor techniques on paper and brought them forward through her elaborately created process resulting in astonishing captivating pieces. In addition to her cowgirl figures on each canvas, Mary also incorporates words, numbers, and symbols inspired by the spirit of the old West.

Mary grew up in St. Cloud, Minnesota with her mom nurturing the growing child’s sense of imagination and creativity. As Mary remembers, she was encouraged to problem solve with new materials and challenged to create new items from ordinary materials. All of this was not lost on Mary, who went on to receive a BS Degree in Art Education from St. Cloud State University and a Masters in Education from Saint Mary’s College also in Minnesota. Today, Mary teaches watercolor, acrylics, and mixed media classes and participates in a number of exhibits with her own art as well.

True to her roots, Mary is constantly changing and evolving in the implementation of the newest painting methods. Her expansive scope is revealed in her newest series of cowgirl watercolors. Her unique talent for composition with bold shapes and eye-popping color and shape combinations also serves her well in her newest pieces.

Come meet Mary and the “Cowgirls”; they will be in the Colonnade Show Jan. 8-9, 2016, located at 19116 Colonnade Way, Surprise, Arizona 85374. Also, visit Mary Wolke’s Facebook page at Crosslake Co-op Art Gallery or contact Mary via email:

Contact arts columnist Shea Stanfield at