Though they work in quite different mediums, Steve and Mary Lu Bennett are an artistic powerhouse. The two artists met in college and after graduation moved to Richmond where they pursued their art individually, and collectively through historic renovations. “I’m sort of her installation guy and she creates the glass pieces” says Steve, as Mary Lu laughs saying, “it’s organized chaos!”
With Steve’s skills in both painting and renovation, combined with Mary Lu’s mastery in glass, the two make quite the team – though they have very opposite work patterns. For Mary Lu, she discovered early on that she needs a tangible, creative end to every day. Meanwhile, Steve considers himself a “binge artist”, preferring to work on projects at his leisure.
Steve lends his detail-oriented, painterly style to the precision required in his commercial renovations. This precision is evident in his piece Mayhem at Main St., which showcases even the most finite details in the Main Street Station clocktower. “The Main Street Station is fascinating, it’s terribly intricate and I always wanted to do something with it. I want the viewer to participate in the composition -- give them something that’s evident, and have their eye blend the color on their own.”
While Steve can blend paint and pastels, Mary Lu is more limited as she must make the glass and layer it to achieve the correct colors. “I like to use very unusual glass; I will hold on to glass for 30-40 years before using it. It has its own voice.” Since 2006 Mary Lu has split her time between her personal work and partnering with a glass Conservator, restoring old stained-glass windows as well as new residential commissions. This dedication to her craft is evident in pieces like Victorian Window, which was originally made for her mother. “My mother wanted something very traditional. I wanted to balance reflective and transmitted light. It even has antique jewels in it, and traditional Victorian colors.”
For Mary Lu and Steve, their art is representative of their love of history, preservation, and craftsmanship. Most importantly, they say, is their desire to “leave an impact, and perhaps your legacy along the way.”