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Juror Profile: Mary Bentz Gilkerson

Mary Bentz Gilkerson, the juror for the upcoming Anderson Arts Guild show at the Anderson Arts Center, is a full-time artist who paints mostly in oils from her home in Columbia, S.C., where she grew up.

After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of South Carolina, Gilkerson spent a few years in New York before returning home to complete her Master of Fine Arts degree and to take a job at Columbia College, where she taught painting, photography, and graphic design for 26 years before retiring in 2016.

She has received grants from USC, the South Carolina Arts Commission, and the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties. One of her favorite experiences was an artist residency at Congaree National Park in central South Carolina. She painted a large mural in the visitors’ center and led tours through the park for people to practice their observational skills. She has also been an art critic for a local newspaper and a national art magazine and continues to teach in-person workshops and online courses about composition, color, and light.

Early in her career, she approached two galleries to make appointments to show her work. Now, she says, galleries approach her. She advises artists who seek gallery representation to create a consistent body of work. “Galleries want to know you’ll be able to produce work once they invest in you and that you’re able to produce work they can describe,” she said. “One problem artists have is they want to explore all over the place. But few galleries will take a risk [when they see that]. They want to see that you’re solidly going in a direction.”

Gilkerson started painting in watercolor, then moved to acrylics and now paints mostly oils. She calls herself an abstract representational painter with a focus on landscapes, capturing the experience of landscapes rather than literally translating them.

She has served a juror for Piccolo Spoleto and the Edisto Artists Guild and will be judging the upcoming Anderson Artists Guild show. She looks for work that stands out in terms of execution, craftsmanship, composition, and design, as well as exhibiting a unique voice. She also urges artists to learn from the experience of rejection. “People can attach too much meaning to rejection and think their work is bad or inadequate,” she said. “What helps more is to get more objective about your own work. Look at what did get in, and do some self-criticism about how your work relates. You can usually figure out why a piece did not get in.”

For more information about Gilkerson, visit

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