Thanks to flowers, painter Mary Nelson Sinclair is experiencing a bit of a metamorphosis. From Monet’s water lilies to Van Gogh’s sunflowers, “I feel like every artist goes through a floral phase,” she laughs. Of late, Sinclair has been personally consumed by peonies, tulips and daffodils, which she grows in the lush garden she tends with her husband, sculptor Matty Cruise. It’s a dramatic shift from Brooklyn, which the couple left in 2019 for their Hudson Valley home and studio. But this new life immersed in nature has only deepened her career-long fascination with color and movement, which she distills in her expressive abstract paintings.
For Sinclair, painting has always pulled from the world around her. She starts by refining her palette, often plucked from “little color stories I find in my day-to-day life.” Honing her eye across years in fashion, interiors and textile design before transitioning full-time to art, she’s drawn to unexpected juxtapositions, pairing “a slightly ‘off’ color with something beautiful.” She then intuitively plays with composition, whether forming bold, graphic gestures or gauzy, atmospheric clouds. “My interest has always been in how a medium can change as I move it around the canvas,” she explains.
Sinclair’s latest paintings feel almost botanical, with petal-like shapes in bright wildflower hues and earthy shades of rust and moss, as if her garden is seeping into her abstract brushstrokes by osmosis. “Moving here from the city, I definitely became inspired by my surroundings,” she says. From her studio—an airy grain barn that she splits with Cruise—“I can see trees and flowers. And the light here, especially at sunset, is beautiful.”
These new works also reflect a creative shift since becoming a mother. Concerned about the potential health effects of oils and turpentine, she switched to high-flow acrylics when she became pregnant with her daughter in 2018. But motherhood also “changed how I looked at my whole process,” she shares. “I learned not to force anything on the canvas. I can have some control, but sometimes I just have to let it happen.”
This spirit of discovery also inspired collaborations with Cruise, where the pair experiments with an accelerated brass patina to create dreamy verdigris motifs on furniture and objets d’art. It seems both in her garden and in the studio, embracing life’s ebb and flow is emboldening. “After all of these big life changes,” she says, “I feel like I’ve hit my stride.”