Mollie Timmons Gerling’s family was surprised when, in remission after a battle with colon cancer, she decided to begin painting. Looking back, however, her drive to paint was the continuation of an artful life and career. In the third grade at Washington Grade School, a visiting art teacher selected one of Gerling’s pieces to be displayed at the Evansville Museum.
“I had never thought anything about art, and Mrs. Fricke chose my artwork to go to the museum,” she says. “I was excited, but I was quiet. I didn’t tell mother, but there it was being shown at the museum.”
Her next artistic foray was as a model for her good friend Ruth Kishline’s clothing shop and Carolyn’s Fashions, which closed in 1993 and 2012 respectively. Gerling modeled for more than a decade and also helped with the display design, which she would continue to do at The Ivy Tree Gift Shop. The shop was located at Welborn Baptist Hospital from 1977 to 1986, and Gerling’s work there brought together her love for fashion, design, and window displays.
After working in The Ivy Tree Gift Shop, Gerling went into real estate and worked as a broker until she retired upon receiving her colon cancer diagnosis. Since she began painting 10 years ago, Gerling estimates she has done close to 500 pieces of artwork varying in styles from sketches and paintings to still lifes, portraits, and landscapes. Though she never sells any of her artwork, she plans to pass her collection on to her children and grandchildren.
How did you decide to start painting?
It was 2007 when I started painting. In 2003, I had colon cancer and I had to have surgery. At five years, [my daughter] Gayle took me to lunch at the mall. As we were leaving she said, “Mom, what would you like to do now that you’re five years in remission?” I said, “Gayle, I would like to paint.”
Did you start out mostly doing art studies of other artists’ work?
I had a calendar, and it was a Klimt calendar. I didn’t know Klimt — never heard of him. I saw his work and thought I want to paint like that. So I got into his head. When I was doing “Farm Garden with Sunflowers,” I couldn’t figure out how he got it to look like it was trailing and in clumps, and I studied it. Finally, I got a magnifying glass. He did it by putting little yellow digits every so often close together, and it does do that. If you look, you can see it. It looks like it’s trailing. The sunflowers took 36 hours. He was about my third painting.
What is your favorite subject or scene to paint?
I love ballet. I love form — figurative painting and portraits. I like painting humans.
How would you describe your personal style now?
My personal style is everything. It surprises me the things that come to your mind, memories that have been buried that still are there. They start formulating in your mind.
What have been some of your favorite pieces?
I think the little girl running or walking or whatever she is doing. She is moving. You can see the action. So many of my paintings are like that. It’s hard for me to do still lifes, because I have an energy inside me that wants to go fast. So what I do is I will play music and try to find a rhythm, and that helps me. I like bright colors, and I try everything.
Your plan is to pass on all of your artwork to family. Are you painting certain pieces for certain people?
Usually I will ask them, because that is so personal. Art is personal. I know if I had something on the wall I didn’t feel comfortable with, I wouldn’t feel comfortable in my home. I don’t paint decorator art. I paint for the sake of art.