Mary Warshaw

In Artist in Residence by Administrator

First Artist in Residence -1980s

Mary Lee Warshaw was a beloved member of our community in Corralitos, Watsonville and Santa Cruz in many circles. She lived in Corralitos since 1965. She was a teacher in the public schools and an instructor in the Department of Early Childhood Education at Cabrillo College, worked to help create and sustain the Elkhorn Slough Foundation, the Watsonville Wetlands Watch and worked as an artist and as a curator for the Pajaro Valley Arts Council gallery in Watsonville…

For many years Mary worked as artist-in-residence at the Elkhorn Slough, and was a collaborator in projects that fostered an appreciation of the wetlands of Watsonville, and the Slough. She supported and celebrated these wetlands and brought other people in to protect these treasures in Watsonville. The wetlands were a source of great inspiration for Mary’s artwork. (Excerpt from Mary’s Obituary November 2, 2010)

For 30 years Mary was a part of our Elkhorn Slough community. She brought others to learn and paint and helped us grow our education programs from the very beginning. She saw early on the important connection of art and science and her collaborations with local groups has helped protect countless acres of precious wild lands. She is lovingly remembered and missed by many.

Below is an excerpt from the catalog of her retrospective exhibit in 2011.

In 1980 as I was leaving town for a year’s work in Toronto, the train traveled over Elkhorn Slough, beautiful in the sunset. I was amazed to discover this treasure so close t home; I couldn’t wait to return to it. From the time of my return I have painted it many times and it is always a unique experience. The changing tides, light and color, the ebb and flow of yellow-green algae and the white algae mats, the color of the seasons are a challenge and delight. With the first frosts the pickleweed turns bright red and then brown and with spring back to green. There is a rhythm in the flow of water meeting land and touching sky that is compelling.

(This work) was painted outdoors at Elkhorn Slough, Scott’s Creek and Struve Slough, usually at the side of the road. Even the big oils were painted in this manner, and on a windy day it was like hanging on to a sail and painting it at the same time…Plein air painting is a very pleasurable activity for me, an active meditation on our unique watery habitats, the creatures and birds that live there, the sky meeting water and land. I am taken out of my world of work, land international worries, and given a glimpse of the interconnectedness of all species, see myself as a small part of a magnificent universe.


In the 80’s, Mark Silberstein, the first director of Elkhorn Slough, awakened in me the understanding that birds, as well as other wild life, were dependent upon free access to feeding and breeding habitats unhampered by political borders. Human development, such as I had experienced in Los Angeles was wiping out many species. Much of my work is involved with the local wetlands and sloughs which are endangered by development.

Mary worked on the content and design for the visitor center at Elhorn Slough Reserve, the intricate details of inter species survival and the eminent possibility of the destruction of these ecosystems moved her to show the beauty of these places in her plein air painting, to help publish an award winning book about the sloughs, to curate several art shows featuring the local wetlands.

I feel that my work as an artist necessitates being part of a community while continuing with my own art work. When I was teaching at Cabrillo, I involved students. Now, I work with the gallery committee of the Pajaro Valley Arts Council….. I love being out with artists who are discovering these lands, and I love seeing their paintings.