"The Gathering"

Fort Ancient Culture, Ohio Valley (AD 1000 – AD 1650)

By Mary Louise Holt

Centuries ago, when beavers were plentiful, natural ponds and wetlands would have been a more common sight in the Ohio River Valley.  Carolina parakeets, the only parakeets native to the North American continent, would also have been plentiful. Beavers still exist today but the parakeets became extinct in 1918.  Early journals written by those who observed them described their flight as swift and direct, weaving  in and out through the trees with remarkable grace and precision.

The Fort Ancient people, ancestors of present day Algonquian speaking American Indians, lived in villages within the Ohio Valley. Everyone in the village, young and old, depended on one another to survive. Everyone had a job to do and little girls would have often worked alongside their mothers.

I have depicted a mother and daughter gathering water from a nearby beaver pond.  A flock of noisy, gregarious Carolina parakeets fly overhead. Their bright, colorful plumage has caught the eye of the little girl.  Creatures of the forest, both avian and earthbound, have gathered together for a brief moment in time.


"Lucy Audubon, A Letter From John"

A Tribute to an Extraordinary Woman

By Mary Louise Holt

Lucy Bakewell Audubon (1787-1874) was the wife of John James Audubon the famous ornithologist, naturalist and artist. His great life’s work and legacy was the creation of a color plate book entitled The Birds of America. Theirs was a love story that endured great hard-ships and it can be argued that, without Lucy’s help and support, John James’ great work may never have been completed. I think she was justified to refer to it as “our great book”.

I created this image of Lucy from written descriptions of how she looked as a young woman. One time, before they married, John traveled to France to visit his father. I chose to depict her reading one of his letters. Lucy is surrounded by beautiful Carolina parakeets, the only native parakeet to North America. Although still abundant during Lucy’s lifetime they eventually became extinct in 1918.



Mary Louise Holt graduated with honors from the College of Mount Saint Joseph with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She started her career as a commercial and editorial illustrator. For many years she worked as a courtroom artist for local and national television networks where she was required to produce many pastel sketches from life for evening news programs.   

Her skills as a graphic designer and illustrator enabled her to eventually launch a new career as an exhibit designer, fulfilling her desire to use art as a way to educate others about the natural world.  She created exhibits for museums, zoos, nature centers and other scientific institutions involved in environmental education and natural history. Her exhibits have been displayed throughout the United States and abroad.  

Portraiture and painting the human figure have always been of great interest to the artist. She has painted many portraits on commission for private collectors.  But Mary Louise is particularly interested in creating narrative paintings that depict the relationship between humans and nature in a historical context.  She often creates works of art that combine figurative, landscape and wild, native creatures in a single painting. Each tells a compelling story about humanity’s relationship with nature through the centuries.  Primarily focused on the natural history of the Eastern United States, her work is carefully researched and based on historical fact.  Her love and enthusiasm for native plants and wild creatures is also evident in her paintings that depict the beauty she sees in nature as it exists today.

Mary Louise Holt is a member of the Portrait Society of America, Susan K. Black Foundation, Oil Painters of America, and a signature member of Artists for Conservation. She is a founding member and first director of Masterworks for Nature and has served on the honorary advisory board of the Lloyd Library Museum. For several years she has taught adult drawing and painting classes at the Woman’s Art Club Cultural Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.                                                                                                  

Original paintings and drawings by Mary Louise Holt can be found in private collections throughout the United States.  Her work has also been exhibited in national and international art competitions and several prestigious museums have exhibited or continue to exhibit her work.  This includes the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and Science, Fort Ancient Memorial Museum, Lloyd Library Museum, The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum, the Audubon Museum, the Betty Jane Admussen Museum of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe and the Charles Darwin Museum in Down, England.