Marva Lee Pitchford Jolly (1937-2012)
Marva Lee Pitchford Jolly was a self-taught clay artist who was born in Crenshaw, MS. Jolly earned her BA from Roosevelt University and her MA from Governors State University. Jolly was a prolific artist who worked every day. She was a Professor in Art and Design at Chicago State University, where she maintained studio space, from 1987 until her retirement in 2009. Her Mudpeoples Studio, where she produced the majority of her works, was located in Hyde Park.
With Felicia Grant-Preston, Jolly was a co-founder of Sapphire and Crystals, a collective that focuses on exhibitions by African American women artists. The collective celebrated its 25th anniversary exhibition at Woman Made Gallery in 2012, adding a place of honor for Marva in their traditional altar installation. Filmmaker Shuli Eschel produced a 1994 film, Mud Peoples: A Video, about Marva, Sapphire and Crystals and her Mudpeoples Studio.
She has been included in many publications and a range of exhibitions, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Spertus Museum of Judaica, and many galleries, including Mary O’Shaughnessy’s Wood Street Gallery and Sculpture Garden, Satori Fine Arts, Artemisia, the Renaissance Center of the Chicago Cultural Center, Susan Woodson Gallery and the South Side Community Art Center, Among others. Jolly’s works are represented in numerous private and corporate art collections.
Marva’s work was influenced by traditional African hand-building techniques and the values she learned from her family while growing up in Mississippi. Inspired by her mother who was a quilter and her father who made toys for the children, Marva’s early passion for mud and water incited her interest in creating art. Clay was her muse from the 1980s.