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Mary Daniel Hobson

Mixed Media Photograhy

Mapping the Body , Bottle Dreams, Milagros,Chance and Evocations

Mapping the Body | Bottle Dreams | Milagros | Evocations | Sanctuary |

For price and availability, please contact the gallery (415) 732-0300


Mapping the Body

I am interested in what lies beneath the surface of the skin. It is not the physical structures that concern me – ligaments, organs, bones. Rather it is the emotions and experiences that are imprinted on our bodies – the places we travel, the music we listen to, the letters we read and write. Our past informs our cells.

As early mapmakers used pen and ink to chart the surface of the world, I use collage to navigate the inner world. I print images of the body on kodalith, because black and white transparencies render the surface invisible. I collage in layers using real objects. I delight in insect wings, needles, fishhooks, matches, traintracks, and door hinges because they are so very tactile and convey multiple meanings.

Many of the pieces in this series were inspired by personal history. However, my hope has always been that the work transcends its origins and speaks to something larger than myself, to something universal. For this reason, I encourage viewers to discover their own unique reading of each piece.

Bottle Dreams

Inspired by a dream, I have been gathering photographs from my past and bottling them. The torn edges of the photographs reference the fragmentary nature of memory. Grouped together in sets, the images take on a cubistic quality, emulating how the eye moves through a scene, never quite recording the entire picture.

I am also interested in the conflation of art and science. The photographs hover in mineral oil like specimens, once fully alive, now waiting to be analyzed. I have been particularly drawn to imagery of the natural world because it is nature that science has worked so hard to seal and study while paradoxically it is nature that holds mysteries larger than can ever possibly be contained.


In 2002, troubled by the increasingly fearful and dark tenor of the world, I began this series dedicated to hope. My process involves photographing people’s arms and asking them to write down their wish for a miracle or positive change in the world or in their life. I then create collages from these images and texts and title them with a phrase from the handwritten wish. The completed pieces serve as visual affirmations, emboldening these wishes for positive change.

This series was inspired by milagros (literally "miracles" in Spanish) -- small metal talismans often sold outside of churches in places like Mexico. They come in myriad shapes – arms, legs, hands, hearts, cars, babies, and many more. A person would select the milagro that symbolically resonated with his or her wish for a miracle, and then put that intention into that object and hang it in a special spot in the back of the church. Arms and hands are the focus of my series, because it is with our arms and hands that we build tangible results in the world.Most of my pieces are made to scale with the actual milagros sold in Mexico and are quite small (4-1/2 x 3-1/2” framed). I prefer installing them in groups in a random arrangement which emulates the way actual milagros would be hung in the back of a church.

In addition, I have created several very large pieces. At 28 inches long, these collages render the arms photographed larger than life, articulating how miracles themselves are larger than everyday experience and require an expanded sense of the possible.


These images are grounded in place. Coastal Marin County in Northern California has been a source of comfort and inspiration for me for over thirty years. By bottling images of this area and then re-photographing them against a field of blackness, I isolate and transform them into touchstones of an inner territory that is simultaneously wild and peaceful.


These images come from a quiet place and a desire to play. I build simple constructions into bottles, and, like puppets, they perform under foglight against a backdrop of old maps and art papers. They aim not to tell a story, but to evoke a mood or a state of mind.

Words hover above these images, but do not land....
perception...incubation. Instead I title them by numbers to leave their mute mystery intact.

Technical Notes

MAPPING THE BODY and most pieces from the MILAGROS series are created using Kodalith transparency film and mixed media collage. Mary Daniel Hobson creates both unique and editioned pieces. Each collage in an edition is made by hand, and so there may be subtle variations from edition to edition. Edition sizes may be as small as two or as large as forty, but most often are editions of either three, five or ten.

The pieces in BOTTLE DREAMS are unique and are either conceived of as sets of 3-10 bottles, or as single bottles with multiple layers of imagery and text. All photographs are taken by the artist and are either printed in a black and white darkroom or outputted as archival ink jet prints. The images float in mineral oil and the bottles are sealed with silicone.

The prints in both the EVOCATIONS series and the SANCTUARY series are made at Electric Works in San Francisco, CA under the artist’s direction. The images are printed using an Epson 9800 printer with an Ultrachrome K3 Inkset on Moab Entrada Natural White acid-free 100% cotton paper (300 gms) with no optical brighteners. This combination of inks and papers produces a print that is archivally rated to last 100+ years.







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