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Mary Michael Shelley, Photo by Tracy Meier, from

I am commonly referred to as a folk artist, although I feel most comfortable with the the term "self-taught."

Mary Michael Shelly describes her work—painted wood carvings—as a picture diary, documenting places, events, and things of importance in her life. She was greatly influenced by her parents. Mary did not think she had the talent for art so she studied writing at college. In 1973 she started carving and painting, inspired by a woodcarving sent to her by her father.

In the past 30 years she has completed 700 carved and painted wood reliefs, supplementing her art income through sign painting and as a social worker. Learning carpentry and sign-making skills had a strong influence on her development as an artist. She is known for her pictures of diners, landscapes, and farms. Her work is carved on rough white pine. Using acrylic paint, she completes the work with an inner gold framed leaf. Shelley has been awarded many grants and is represented in the permanent collections of many institutions, including The Smithsonian Institution, High Museum of Art, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Mary Michael Shelley, Photo by Tracy Meier, from

Education & Community

Education and Training
Cornell University, BA, Ithaca, New York
Self-taught as an artist

Teachers and Influences
Shelly's parents

Connection to Bucks County
Mary Michael Shelly was born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.


Major Solo Exhibitions
New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, 1993
Frank Miele Gallery, New York, New York, 1995, 1998
One person retrospective, Womens' History Park, Seneca Falls, New York, 2001

Major Group Exhibitions
An Alternative Art: the Non-Academic Tradition in America Today, The American Museum in Britain, Bath, England, 1976
More than Land or Sky: Art from Appalachia
, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC, 1981
Jay Johnson's Americas Folk Heritage Gallery, New York, New York, 1985, 1986, 1989
Through a Woman's Eyes: Female Folk Artists of 20th Century America
, The Isetan Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan, 1988
International Self-Taught Group Show, Galerie Pro Arter Kasper, Morges, Switzerland, 1993
National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, New York, 1994
Let it Shine
, High Art Museum, Atlanta, Georgia, 2001


Major Collections
American Museum in Britain, Bath, England
High Museum, Atlanta, Georgia
Coca Cola Company, 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Atlanta, Georgia
Museum of American Folk Art, New York, New York
National Museum of Women and the Arts, Washington, DC
New York Historical Association, Fennimore House, Cooperstown, New York
Smithsonian Institution, White House Easter Egg Collection, Washington, DC
Women's Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, New York
Absolute Vodka Collection, featured in April, 1990

Major Awards
Best American Work, Prix Suisse et Prix Europe de Peinture Primitive Moderne, 1993

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