When she was six, Mary Crockett painted alongside her grandmother, watercolor artist Helen Panton.
But it wasn't just the painting process that bonded them.
"I think she is such an appreciator of beauty and her visual life is important to her," says Crockett, 26. "We have a lot in common in that. I feel that way, also."
Crockett will share her appreciation of beauty when she opens Proud Mary at 433 North Cleveland near Crosstown Concourse. The shop, which will feature works by friends and others, is slated to open in late spring.
"There's a lot of this in New Orleans. It's a retail and gallery space that exists to support emerging artists and designers. The kind of design-oriented things in here are kind of like the side projects of fine artists and designers."
Opening a gallery/shop wasn't a lifelong dream. Crockett majored in studio art and art history at Loyola University in New Orleans. "I ended up focusing on metals and the sculpture that I made there ended up culminating with a lot of large-scale works that were cast in plaster and concrete. And kind of related to how time is recorded. They were stratified."
- Mary Crockett’s Proud Mary
Sculpting was her favorite artistic expression. "I just love materials and figuring out how things work," she says.
She likes minimalism. "Not necessarily for the aesthetics, but the intellectual underpinnings of it. That's what I was looking at a lot. So, they ended up being some kind of geometric forms. But then I also was interested in that whole time and recording thing."
Crockett used plaster and concrete as her medium. For some castings, she made molds from stones and rocks she collected from various places. She layered plaster and concrete "with different aggregates from different locations that may have had different textures and colors."
She displayed those works on "very low, horizontal plinths."
One of those pieces, 1/4 Fathom, is in the art collection at Mississippi State University.
In New Orleans, Crockett worked as an art assistant to Lotte Geeven, artist in residence at May Gallery. She also worked with Julie Neill, who designs light fixtures. And she worked at Parse Gallery, which some of her friends and mentors ran. "That felt like a fun incubator space. And I showed work there sometimes."
Crockett, who also helped build a Mardi Gras float in her backyard, loved it in New Orleans, but she moved back to Memphis because of an autoimmune disorder.
She wanted to get back to Memphis to rest, maybe get a studio space and start concentrating on her own work.
Crockett, who discovered the Crosstown space on Craig's List, originally thought about using it as her studio. Then she thought, "There's room for a storefront. Memphis could use this."
As to her criteria for what goes in Proud Mary, Crockett says, "My own taste will have something to do with it, but the goal isn't to curate to a specific aesthetic. I think probably there is going to be some natural cohesiveness just because of where I'm situated and who I've been exposed to."
Out-of-town artists include jewelry maker Laila Lott, owner of Titty Hawk in Brooklyn.
New Orleans artists include Maria Sandhammer, who makes embroidered eye masks, and Jami Girouard, who makes jewelry and clothing, some of which is made out of Astro Turf.
Memphis artists will include Taylor Loftin and Leana Hicks.
So, why did Crockett choose "Proud Mary" as the name of her new place? "That song really relates to my vision for this place. The whole part about 'keep on burning' and all that hard work, not working for the man kind of thing. That's basically what all these people do. And it also mentions Memphis and New Orleans, which is the genesis for all these relationships, basically. And my name happens to be Mary, which, I guess is okay."