By Darla McCammon
Mary Alice Estep Tillman was born in Atwood in 1920. She made an impression with her art in many ways and there remains a lively interest in her work. Fortunately, many in the community have collected her work and are now sharing it in the current exhibit at Warsaw City Hall. Estep died in July 2009 and left behind many treasures. Her work was primarily in oil and she leaned toward broad strokes, vividly contrasting bright colors, and thick, impasto effects in her work.
The exhibit opened Jan. 4 and will be up for two months for your viewing pleasure. Gertrude Smythe, a collector, also knew Estep personally.
“I met Mary Alice during my high school days,” said Smythe. “We were in the midst of World War II and due to gas rationing I was not allowed to drive our car on pleasure trips, but sometimes I would ride home with my friend Betty Miner on her school bus and spend the weekend with her. Mary Alice was her cousin. She was a few years older than us but she and Betty were close pals. Sometimes Betty would talk Mary Alice into letting us ride along on her Saturday night date with her boyfriend, Leonard Estep. We would all go to the Colonial Hotel in Rochester for the evening. That was the gathering place for young people then and we thought it was a real adventure. I admired Mary Alice. She was beautiful and as weet and friendly a person as I would ever meet.”
Life moved on and Gertrude Smythe began to read articles about Estep winning art contests. She had taken up painting in 1960 to help her son with his painting class and became fascinated. She studied under Fred Olds and Al Steffler, an instructor at Grace College.
“I was happy for her but did not meet her again until I occupied an office at Creighton Brothers as a bookkeeper,” said Smythe. “I wanted to have a nice picture on the wall. I phoned and was invited to her house to pick one. My next lunch hour found me looking at a garage stuffed full of paintings, as she was preparing for the Nappanee Art Festival. I was amazed to see up to 100 framed paintings ready to go. I am no artist and did not know which one I wanted. My lunch hour was ticking away, so I simply picked one with pretty colors, paid her 25 dollars and took my prize back to work with me. It hung in my office until I retired 25 years later. Now, it still hangs on my wall at home. I have loaned it to the Estep exhibit for others to enjoy.”
The Estep exhibit will be available to view until March 4 at the Warsaw City Hall art gallery. Estep was an avid golfer, and like many other artists was also musically creative. She died in 2009 at the age of 88. Estep continues to have a great impact on the art community of Kosciusko County and northern Indiana. She was a member of the Lakeland Art Association and left a legacy with a number of her works in the permanent collection of the LAA. Her niece Connie Black also loaned a number of wonderful pieces for our enjoyment. A complete list of donors and a longer biography will be available at the City Hall gallery. The gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, except holidays.
Upcoming and Current Events
Please contact Darla McCammon at (574) 527-4044 or at [email protected] if you have an event to mention.
- The gallery at Rua will be on display through Jan. 12 at 108 E. Market St., featuring Nate and Jeanie Skages with their “Resurrexi-Making Medieval Modern” exhibit. It demonstrates an amazing use of technology and printmaking techniques in the creative process.
- The Honeywell 92 County Art Show will be at the Clark Gallery, Wabash, from Jan. 10 through Feb. 18.
- There will be a Brenda Ramsier exhibit at the Lakeland Art Association. More information will be announced next week.