In 1963, Mae and Herman Walker first moved into their Mauldin residence. Today, their family has grown up and moved away. Just the two of them and their two cats live there now. But more memories than the heart can contain fill up the walls of their home in the form of paintings created by Mae’s own hand over a 20 to 30-year span in late 20th century.
The one thing Mae Walker always knew is that she wanted to paint. Her friend from a Bible study painted still lifes with acrylics so for a time, Mae tried to learn from her. However, she longed to paint landscapes and not still lifes. Mae tried paint by number, but this did not satisfy her creativity nor allow her to paint the scenes in her head. She painted some with her sister but still felt she needed more instruction. Then, Mae visited the library and searched for books describing the techniques she would need to master. A helpful art shop clerk advised her on what supplies she would need. From these modest beginnings, she would teach herself how to paint landscapes, buildings, scenery, and nature with oil paints, her preferred medium.
Mae did seek some formal instruction, too. At one point, she accidentally enrolled in a short-lived abstract painting class which did not help her much in her quest. Then, she attended a class at Greenville Technical College where the instructor offered meaningful suggestions but allowed her to create her own style. Along the way, some folks discouraged her from pursuing her art, while others encouraged her to keep working on it. She went with those who cheered her on!
Everything sparked Mae’s sense of creativity including greeting cards, photographs, and pictures on calendars. She especially liked to paint birds and often included a cardinal, her favorite bird, in her renditions. If something interested her, she would snap photographs and carefully work from these to create her beautiful pictures in her unique style. Folks heard of her painting skill and would come to her with photographs of beloved places, requesting that she create one of her lovely paintings as a remembrance.
Two painters, Thomas Kincaid also known as the “Painter of Light” and Terry Redlin noted for his oil paintings of cabins, wildlife, and landscapes have also helped inspire her. Now 88 years old, Mae no longer paints, but still enjoys thumbing through books containing their paintings and sharing her favorites.
Over the years, Mae captured many scenes unique to the Mauldin, Lake Greenwood, Edgefield, and the surrounding countryside. So many of her paintings involve places that one can no longer visit or that have changed greatly with time. She painted the Long Cane Creek covered bridge in McCormick County. This historical site, built in 1892, was destroyed by fire in 1979. Mae framed her work with wood recovered from that burned-down bridge making it even more memorable. On her walls, hangs a painting of Mauldin’s first school built before 1900. It was once located across from the current Mauldin Cultural Center near where Mauldin United Methodist Church now stands. One wintry evening in 1982, she drove by New Hope Baptist Church blanketed in snow, so she took a photograph of the site and created a painting from it. Today, due to recent remodeling, the church front looks very different from that moment captured by her brush.
Frances and Nell Thompson, long-term Mauldin residents, treasure two of Mae’s paintings which they have carefully mounted above their fireplace. One of those paintings depicts the old Adams’ homestead associated with Nell’s family and the other shows the barn and corn crib once located there. These places are long gone, but the paintings Mae created have captured the beautiful memories for all time. Frances Thompson recalls Mae’s painting of Noah’s ark which graced the walls in the children’s area at Mauldin First Baptist Church. He says that her rendition included so much detail that he could teach this cherished Biblical story to the children in his Sunday School class by using it to illustrate his points.
Mae gave away some of her paintings, but she kept no records of these, not even a photograph. So, someone out there may possess one of her beautiful scenes and not realize it unless they spy her signature and date at the bottom.
In addition to her paintings, Mae contributed articles to an Edgefield publication as well coauthored a book entitled “Mauldin’s Legacy and Its People” in 1984. This volume contains very rare photographs from Mauldin’s past as well as family histories for this area. It is book to which people often refer because its information cannot be easily found anywhere else.
In speaking with Mae and her husband Herman, one cannot help but realize how special their lives have been and how much they have contributed to our Mauldin community. Out of his great love for his wife, Herman has supported and encouraged her painting and writing endeavors over the years. Mae’s persistence, self-education, and drive in learning to paint against all odds can only be admired. The beautiful paintings and the writings created by her hand still speak to the heart and bring back memories of a bygone day. Thank you, Mae, for helping us to always remember.