Seminal Springs artist Mary Ann Bransby dies at 90
On Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011, Colorado Springs lost a link to its heyday as an arts colony when Mary Ann Bransby died. The artist, known by friends and colleagues as fearless in her work, was 90.
Bransby was being treated at Penrose Hospital for pneumonia and dehydration after her recent move from the Namaste Alzheimer Center when she succumbed to kidney failure. “She is both loved and missed,” said Jill M. Spear, a fellow artist and friend.
When people talk about Bransby, though, it’s often in the same breath as her husband, noted muralist Eric Bransby, 94. Married for almost 70 years, the pair created parallel — if not equal — lives in art. Both studied with painter Thomas Hart Benton and later, the Broadmoor Art Academy legend Boardman Robinson. As Eric built his career as a muralist of national renown, Mary Ann forged a life as a mother, teacher and as an artist seemingly without boundaries — painter, sculptor, jewelry maker, ceramicist.
“Mary Ann worked in a dizzying array of media and styles,” said Mark Arnest, former arts reporter for The Gazette. “But everything she made had a supple organic line that carried your eye from place to place with a sense of inevitability.”
Perhaps she scored quieter victories than Eric did. Mary Ann Bransby was founder of a popular women’s watercolor group called Chromatic Edge, and later she co-founded of the Pikes Peak Watercolor Society. In the late ’70s, Bransby launched what was possibly her most public triumph: “Choreographing the Object,” a performance project that was featured on PBS and “Good Morning, America.” It toured museums for five years. In July, she received the Founders Award, the Cottonwood Center for the Arts’s most prestigious honor.
In 2001, the Fine Arts Center honored the Bransbys with a major retrospective called “From Roots to Soaring Visions: Eric and Mary Ann Bransby.”
“The Bransbys loomed large in this arts community,” said Eve Tilley, daughter of the late painter Lew Tilley.
Painters Tracy and Sushe Felix became friends with the Bransbys after they returned to the Springs in the mid-’80s.
“Eric, of course, was a pussycat,” Tracy Felix said. “Mary Ann was an artist in her own right, but very tough. ... She tried extra hard to stand out as much as she could from Eric, to have her own identity. I admired that. She fought for herself.”
Sara Ware Howsam was a member of Chromatic Edge and Mary Ann Bransby’s friend for 20 years.
“She wasn’t interested in turning out little Mary Anns,” said Ware Howsam, who moved from commercial to fine art at her mentor’s encouragement. “Which is what many teachers want, to duplicate themselves. She was interested in finding what was your gift and helping your develop it. I owe her a debt I can never repay.”
Friends say that remained deeply engaged in her art, even as she struggled with her health during the past few years.
“Even though I’ve always disliked art that’s painted from photographs,” she told The Gazette in 2007, “I did this one from a photograph and will do more. I’m trying to keep this hand and these two eyes going.”
She is survived by husband Eric Bransby, daughter Fredericka Bransby Fiechter, son-in-law Jacques Fiechter and grandson Alexis Fiechter. Funeral arrangements are pending.