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Home / Exhibits / Eyes to the Soul: The Fiber Art of Margene May (August 27, 2024- October 27, 2024)

Eyes to the Soul: The Fiber Art of Margene May (August 27, 2024- October 27, 2024)

Canton artist Margene May's artwork is instantly recognizable for its lively ethnic patterns and warm earth tones, and from the African American people, usually women, who are the subjects of her portraits.


Margene Gloria May was always interested in creative pursuits but never really started making art until after she retired from the City of Canton as a code inspector. Margene was a self-taught artist who worked in a variety of materials before beginning her work using fabric to create images. She focuses on portraits depicting a range of emotions through everyday moments. Her work has been recognized by Black Art in America and was featured in the books “A Tribute to Oprah Winfrey” and “Art Quilt Portfolio People & Portraits” by Martha Sielman. Margene’s work is even more impressive when you recognize her artistic accomplishments were realized within a roughly 10-year span of time.


Margene’s work focuses more on women, but she has also balanced the subject matter with couples, children, and some landscapes. It would take her anywhere from 20-40 hours to complete a piece from concept to completion. Working in bold, ethnic and unusual colors and patterns, Margene would select fabric that “spoke” to her and inspired the story of her work.



From the Artist (excerpt from Art Quilt Portfolio People & Portraits by Martha Sielman):


“Usually it comes down to the eyes, which can show joy, sadness, defiance, or despair, These are some of the many emotions I try to capture with different images. Once I get the eyes the way I want, the rest is easy. A commissioned piece is more difficult, since the customer expects an exact likeness. It’s a much slower process, but I enjoy having the freedom to add my own insights into their personality.


I work with many variations of ethnic hair and use it to define my characters’ personalities through color, texture, and style. By using fabric, I’m never certain where I’ll end up until it’s finished. Experimenting with how the hair can complement the subject’s personality is also fun. This is one area where I really get to play with fabrics and let my imagination soar.”




This exhibit started with a conversation with Margene in 2021 who had intended to create new work for the exhibition. Unfortunately, Margene passed away unexpectedly on July 10, 2022. It has been with the assistance of Lynda Tuttle Swintosky and the generous loans from collectors of Margene’s work over the years, that the Canton Museum of Art presents the exhibition “Eyes to the Soul: The Fiber Art of Margene May” in the artist’s memory.

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