Mary Myart Malott, Artist Who Transformed Herself Countless Times, Dies at 79


Mary Myart Malott, an Austin, Texas and New York City painter, sculptor, assemblage artist, art critic, and diarist whose artistic bent also led her into unpredicted success in real estate development, died January 21, 2008, at the age of 79 at the Cobble Hill Nursing Home in Brooklyn after a protracted period of suffering from Alzheimer’s. In the late 80’s before Alzheimer’s struck, Ms. Malott worked half her week at her loft studio in SoHo on politically- themed art and the other half at her Marcel Breuer-designed home in Clinton Corners, New York on nature-themed work such as her “Slices of the Forest” series. In 1990 when symptoms of the disease appeared, her art was simultaneously on display at five separate New York City locations.

Ms. Malott wrote that “painting was making part of myself known.” Over the years, her art took many forms and shifted through many styles as she made, taught and critiqued art under a series of names.

Early Life

Mary Myart Malott was born in Indiana as Mary Eleanor Harrell, the daughter of Mary Evans Harrell and Samuel Runnels Harrrell, who once ran for governor of Indiana. She was a descendant of Malott, Voss, Evans, Hanks, Macy, Miesse, Bohner, Davis, Drake, Olmsted, Patterson, Ticer and other well-known Midwestern and Eastern families such as the Hubbles and McKeowns.

Ms. Malott’s love of art began as a little girl growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she attended Tudor Hall School. Mary took art classes and wrote poems and short stories that were published in The Crown, the school’s literary magazine. She became editor of The Crown and The Chronicle, another school publication. Ms. Malott attended Radcliffe College where she became art editor of the school magazine, Signature. During the summer of 1947, Mary studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and won first prize in painting. After graduating from Radcliffe in 1950, Mary studied painting with Max Beckman at the Brooklyn Museum School.

Burgeoning Career

While studying painting with Beckman, Mary married her first husband, another student, Dudley Harrison, and had her first child, Barbara McIntyre. The family lived in Bloomington, Indiana, where Mary worked as a commercial artist for WTTV and had a one-person show of black and white photographs at the Art Building of Indiana University. The couple divorced in 1954.

In 1955 Ms. Malott married Francis McIntyre, M.D. and moved to Texas. The couple raised Barbara and had two daughters, Sylvia McIntyre in 1957 and Carolyn McIntyre in 1958 in Austin. In Texas, Ms. Malott pursued her career as an artist using the name Mary McIntyre for about 25 years under which name she was listed in Who’s Who in American Art. While in Austin, Ms. Malott got her Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Texas, served as volunteer Director of the Laguna Gloria Art Museum School (1964-1968), as trustee of the Laguna Gloria Art Museum and was active in the Junior League, the Travis County Medical Auxiliary, and the Colonial Dames.

Ms. Malott painted and had her works exhibited in hundreds of solo and group shows all over Texas. Many of the shows were covered in articles in the Austin American-Statesman, the Austin Arts & Leisure, The Austin Citizen. Mary exhibited in Austin venues such as Laguna Gloria, Huntington Gallery, Elisabeth Ney Museum and the University of Texas. Throughout the state she exhibited in such locations as Trinity University, Southwestern University, Abilene Fine Arts Museum, Baylor University, University of Houston, and the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio.

Mary’s art reflected many of the prominent art movements of the years. Her early work consisted of colorful impressionistic portraits or pleasant scenes of people, sailboats, or friends at a picnic. She explored abstract art, some appearing as though the viewer is placed among the petals of a flower, others more emotionally expressive and dreamlike or from a fractured perspective. Her art continued to become more personal and emotionally charged.

Mary not only did portraits and landscapes, but also created life-sized pieces addressing personal and social issues. One piece called Wedding Shrine was shown in several galleries in Texas and reviewed by art critics. Susan Platt, from Artweek, June 2, 1979, vol. 10, p5 wrote of the piece shown at Laguna Gloria Art Museum in Austin, “Mary McIntyre’s Wedding Shrine is the closest to being radical. It not only appeals as an object, it speaks to the general public. McIntyre has made a huge cake (plaster) that has lots of imitation gooey frosting, painted tondos of a local wedding ceremony and a border of bride pictures. She bolted the “cake” to a vertical niche-environment (edged with antique lace) that has casket overtones and pinned statements about marriage to it. Then she invited everyone else to do likewise. As a process piece it is open, engaging and pointed. The comments have evolved from being somewhat saccharine to increasingly raw. One bank secretary wrote recently: ‘Marriage is a great Institution, so is a mental hospital.'” David Gene Fowler reviewed Mary’s works displayed at Theatre in the Rye in Austin in 1980 and wrote A Sense of Selves, an article for Texas Arts Review, published in 1981. He said of Wedding Shrine and other pieces, “We see her in the many roles a woman might assume to be channeled into – student, bride, wife, mother, independent individual – each then, can be an act of examining how one arrived at one’s current form of existence, how all the contradictions are married through time into one contradictory mass…”

Lisa Tuttle from Today’s Show World section of the Austin American-Statesman wrote about the extra challenge that women in the arts faced. In August 31,1975 she interviewed several women artists in Texas about the indifference and lack of recognition women experienced. She asked Mary to submit an article and Mary wrote, “the pressures against a woman may be prejudice in a male dominated aspect of art…women are held back by societal objections to their depictions of ideas other than those expressing nature.” She went on to say, “it takes an amount of personal security to withstand isolation, rejection and indifference…one must create for the love of creating itself.” Mary had that inner strength and love of creating that helped her continue to produce art, show her work and contact galleries in spite of plenty of rejections along the way.

Ms. Malott was, herself, an art critic with a weekly column appearing for three years for the Austin American-Statesman (1975-1978). Among the artists she reviewed was Frida Kahlo, whose works were displayed at the Michener Gallery, University of Texas campus. In her article for the Statesman, September 3,1978, Mary wrote, “The paintings of Frida Kahlo are direct self-revelations through portraits of herself and the use of easily read symbols. They present a character of enormous strength, a person who suffered and was able to objectify her emotions into a fine art form.” From 1980-81 Ms. Malott provided weekly commentary for Artbeat, a show on KLRU-TV in Austin. Ms. Malott also taught art classes at colleges in Austin (Huston-Tillotson College, and Concordia College) and for Laguna Gloria Art Museum.

Real Estate Restoration and Preservation

In 1976 Ms. Malott was awarded the Austin Chapter American Institute of Architects Award, and the Heritage Society of Austin’s Historic Preservation Award for her preservation, through development, of Austin’s Pecan Square. In her first venture in real estate, Ms. Malott restored two blocks of old houses on 1100 and 1200 West 6th Street in Austin, creating the Pecan Square specialty shopping area which included a bakery and restaurant. Preceding her intervention, the area was run down. Financial and banking advice Ms. Malott received predicted that she would not succeed. Notwithstanding, Ms. Malott pursued through to completion her vision of aesthetically transforming the blocks and the metamorphosis of the area resulted not only in a substantial financial success for Ms. Malott, but drew in other businesses that launched around the area in subsequent years.

Her success with Pecan Square involved purchase of the block of buildings at W. 6th Street and Blanco in a stretch of 6th Street dominated by car dealerships. She envisioned commercial development westward and, despite skeptics, she renovated the structures and added a restaurant. She persuaded Patricia Baeur to move her Sweetish Hill Bakery across town into the converted gas station on the corner (since then moved to a nearby building). The residential structures were converted into boutiques, a gallery and office space. This became “Pecan Square” and, as time has shown, the car dealerships moved out and West 6th became a viable commercial strip with boutique shops, independent restaurants, and businesses interspersed with attractive residential buildings. Pecan Square influenced the direction of Austin’s growth and initiated a renaissance of house renovations in the area.

Ms. Malott’s next Austin real estate project in the late 70’s was the initial rehabilitation of the Gilfillan House at 603 West 8th St. This was done with her daughter Sylvia as part of the business they started, Novus Ordo, which focused on purchasing and renovating old West Austin structures. The spacious Gilfillan home had been converted to nine apartments and had become quite deteriorated inside and out. Months of work brought the home to its former glory. Mary and daughter got the home listed on the National Historic Homes Registry, then sold it to Anne Coffrin Baldschweiler who used it at an art school. It served as a major social and cultural event center throughout the 1980’s and early 90’s and today houses a law firm.

The New York Years

In the early 1980’s, after a divorce from Dr. McIntyre, Ms. Malott assumed the name of Mary Myart Malott, adopting the name of Malott from the maiden name of her maternal grandmother.

Thereupon, Ms. Malott moved to New York City’s SoHo under her new name where, attending gallery openings and shows, she engaged with a new community of artists with whom she became friends. Ms. Malott’s longtime companion during much of this period was Tim Yohn, coauthor with Joseph Stone of Prime Time and Misdemeanors: Investigating the 1950s TV Quiz Scandal : a D.A.’s Account. Mr. Yohn was sometimes an artistic collaborator with Ms. Malott.

Ms. Malott wrote about her move to New York in an article called New York/Not New York, Four Years in New York published in Art and Artists, February/March, 1987 and said, “New York had always been the place of my fantasies as an artist wanting to make the scene.” She described her feelings about living in New York as “strange, wonderful, frightening, exhilarating, encouraging and discouraging.” Ms. Malott described her art at this time as “narrative, it has an allegorical quality. It has to do with things going on in the psyche, ordinary feelings and wonderments that are fairly universal, and the ongoing search for what is beyond what you know, or the unknown into which life is pushing you.” By her third year in New York, Mary was showing her art in group and solo shows. Ms. Malott wrote about living in New York, “It’s fascinating to see the possibilities, to try to make a track for myself, to be in a community of artists who take their work seriously (none of this patronizing stuff that one finds in small cities such as ‘Are you still painting?’).” Mary sold pieces to private collectors and companies including NYNEX, Tracor, and Marsh and McLennon.

By 1991, Alzheimer’s disease had begun to noticeably affect Ms. Malott. She continued to paint a series of nature scenes begun earlier called Slices of the Forrest from her Marcel Breuer house in Clinton Corners. The house, Breuer’s `Wolfson Trailer House’, had been bought from sculptor and painter Sidney Wolfson. The two structures on the property were constructed around vintage mobile home trailers, the main Breuer-designed house being built around a streamlined silver trailer manufactured by John Paul Getty’s Spartan Aircraft company. (The New York Times described the house as “a strange union of high modern architecture and pop culture”)

She painted her last large painting, a Slices of the Forrest painting, in 1993. Mary’s last gallery show, which showed her complete Slices of the Forrest series, was at the Amos Eno Gallery in SoHo, January, 1994. For about a year she would stretch a canvass and prepare her paints but not start a painting. At the same time, Mary participated in research and clinical trials at the NYU Alzheimer’s and Dementia Research Program. In 1995, after a year of not being able to paint, Mary’s daughter Carolyn and two granddaughters were visiting her in her loft and Mary sat down with her granddaughters who were drawing with Craypaz. Mary picked up a Craypaz pencil and drew a portrait of her granddaughter, Eve White. With the encouragement of her companion Tim Yohn and family, Mary continued to draw Craypaz portraits of family and friends for several months. The unusual colors she used and simpler style were different from earlier portraits she painted of family members and friends. Copies of the Craypaz portraits were given to NYU for research.

Mary Myart Malott is survived by two brothers, Evans Malott Harrell, of Georgia, Samuel Macy Harrell, of Florida, three daughters, Barbara McIntyre of Portland, Oregon, Sylvia McIntyre (Mrs. Larry Crook) of Gainesville, Florida, and Carolyn McIntyre (Mrs. Michael D. D. White) of Brooklyn Heights, New York, and five grandchildren, Ethan McCooper, Vanessa and Alexander Crook, Eve and Audrey White. A spring New York City memorial service is planned.

A rolling slide show with Mary Malott’s self portrait, a few of the Slices of the Forrest paintings as well as two Craypaz portraits can be seen on a Carolyn McIntyre’s website, www.carolynmcintyre.com under Lifecycle and Eldercare. More of Mary’s art can be seen at http://dancesingimages.smugmug.com/gallery/4262662/1/249618600#249618600