Mara Held is known for energetic yet delicate paintings on linen and paper depicting lyrical organic forms in vibrant colors. She uses intricately cut stencils for some patterns that evoke varied sources from plant life growing on ancient forest floors or pelagic forms found in coral reefs to Japanese woodcuts and Psychedelic posters. Held’s preferred medium is egg tempera, a painstaking technique mastered by Renaissance painters. Carter Foster, deputy director of the Blanton Museum, explains “It’s not a medium where you can sling the paint around. You can see the precision of Mara’s work even though the forms are not hard edged.”
Mara Held was born in 1954 in New York. In her early 20s, Held lived in the highlands of Guatemala studying the art and ancient language of the Quiché people. She received her undergraduate degree from CUNY - City University of New York and an MA from Immaculate Heart College in 1979 before moving back to New York in the 1980s. She taught essay writing at the college level and became a full time artist at the age of 35. Her studio is located on an old dairy farm in the picturesque Hudson Valley that has been in her family since the 1960s. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions in New York City and abroad. Institutions that have collected her work include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The New York Public Library; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The International Artists' Museum, Tel Aviv; and Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. Mara Held’s work has been profiled by The New York Times, Elle Decor, and The Brooklyn Rail. Held has had three solo exhibitions at McClain Gallery.