From the cockpit of her family’s vintage plane, Mary Edna Fraser was awed by aerial views of the Lowcountry waterways and landscapes she saw.
The experience inspired the South Carolina artist to recreate the landscapes in batik art and paintings.
The studio: Fraser works out of a backyard studio on James Island Creek, just south of Charleston.
The artist: Born and raised in Fayetteville, NC, Fraser studied textiles, interior design and art at East Carolina University. She started dyeing batiks on silk in the late 1970s.
A full-time painter and master dyer, Fraser has worked as an artist in residence, lecturer, and educator of batik at countless workshops, including the National Textile Museum (DC) and the 2019 Silk Painters International conference at the Arrowmont (Tenn.) School of Arts and Crafts.
The award-winning artist, whose work can be found in galleries, homes, museums and public spaces across the country, has collaborated on two books with Duke University Professor Emeritus Dr. Orrin Pilkey, a noted coastal geologist.
Inspiration: Flying in her grandfather’s classic Ercoupe with her brother as pilot and photographing the coastal islands of Georgia and South Carolina, Fraser realized she could have adventures and recreate the landscape as art.
What’s popular: Batiks on silk ($1,200 to $25,000) are her signature medium. Also oil paintings ($225 to $15,000); monotypes (a type of printmaking) on paper ($225 to $1,125); and metallic canvas ($125 to $45,000).
Other favorites: Hand-hemmed charmeuse silk scarves ($175) and chiffon silk pareos ($300). Also magnets ($10 to $15) and high-quality silk rugs made in Nepal ($3,750 to $30,000).
Her style: Reminiscent of Japanese Edo prints and Impressionism.
Big break: In 1994, she installed the first one-woman and textile exhibition at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, featuring 74 batiks and monotypes.
Awards: Among others, the 1995 NASA artist of the year and a recipient of the 2016 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Awards for the Arts, an annual award given by the SC Arts Commission.
By the book: The artist is the subject of a book “The Batik Art of Mary Edna Fraser” by Cecelia Dailey. The 2019 book features architectural installations and unique techniques about batik, an ancient dyeing technique and art form.
Recent installations: In 2019, she was commissioned by Ingevity, a sustainable company, to design artwork for the three-story stairwell in the company’s new headquarters in North Charleston.
In early May 2020, she oversaw the installation at the company of a 40-foot by 13.5-foot canvas reproduction of “Charleston Charted,” a batik on silk depicting the peninsula area in bright colors.
What’s new: Large plein air oil paintings.
Personal interest: Continue to help with the cleanup of the polluted James Island Creek.
Where to see & buy: maryedna.com
Get social at: Mary Edna Fraser on facebook and MaryEdnaStudio on instagram