Bottles everywhere: Mary Paulsen surrounded with her favorite multi-colored building material.
Bottles everywhere: Mary Paulsen surrounded with her favorite multi-colored building material.

Mary's Gone Wild

Field review by the editors.

Supply, North Carolina

Mary Paulsen receives visions from the Lord. At her Mary's Gone Wild mini-village, she's been channeling divine instruction into art and flea market resale for the past 40 years.

One of several chapels at the Mary's Gone Wild compound.
One of several chapels at the Mary's Gone Wild compound.

Mary was one of ten siblings born to a shrimp fisherman. Her first husband drowned while clamming, leaving her with two children to raise on her own. While earning money by waitressing at a seafood restaurant, Mary was visited by the Lord; He told her to end her time slinging hushpuppies and crab legs, and to "go out by faith." Mary took that advice and started a yard sale the next day. From that one little table her antiques empire expanded and, based on another call from On High, she began building structures along her property to house her personal treasures.

The name "Mary's Gone Wild," she said, came from her early days of dumpster-diving for collectibles and art supplies. People, she said, thought she had gone crazy.

Everyone in Mary's artwork has a smile.
Everyone in Mary's artwork has a smile.

Although Mary began as a seller of other people's things, she eventually found a career in art by making her own reverse glass pane paintings. Applying paint onto a clear material backward -- to be viewed from the other side -- is a technique that goes back as far as Byzantium. "The Lord gave me the art and my vision right down in front of my face," she told us. "He was showing in the vision exactly how to come out and layer the paint to do the reverse side."

Mary has been told, she said, that she's made more artwork than any other painter, ever. "Mary Paulsens" can now be found in the collections of major museums, and in countries across the globe. And after years of watching the TV series Antiques Roadshow, Mary makes sure to sign and date each piece, so that "when they get mine, it's gonna be no guess. It's gonna be right there on it." Given her unique style and technique, this might be unnecessary.

Snoopy, Betty Boop, and a plethora of Disney characters are popular subjects. Mary has also created a "Miss Peanut" and a "Miss Nemo," imagining a better half to familiar cartoon characters. "I paint my vision," she told us. "Whatever the Lord puts in my head, that's what comes out."

Treasures spill onto the lawn at Mary's Gone Wild.
Treasures spill onto the lawn at Mary's Gone Wild.

The Mary's Gone Wild compound -- a warren of salvage displayed both indoors and out -- includes a Coca-Cola shed, an Elvis shed, and a few chapels (Mary was remarried in one of them). There are plans to build more, including a Pepsi shed. Mary's collection of over 8,000 baby dolls are scattered throughout the property, one as a stand-in preacher in a chapel. She has plans to open a centralized baby doll room.

Mary has little need for paint or wallpaper.
Mary has little need for paint or wallpaper.

Mary's most popular paintings by far are those involving the ocean. Given the proximity of Mary's Gone Wild to the beaches of the coastal Carolinas, this is not too surprising. Portraits of mermaids, and seascapes of colorful fish and ocean flora, fill Mary's painting studio, and sell very well. "Happy Crabs," another Mary invention, portray crustaceans waving to the viewer and smiling. In fact, all of the subjects in Mary's paintings are smiling.

Although Mary doesn't drink, beachgoers certainly do, and Mary's Gone Wild acts as a refuse depositary for imbibers on their way home. With these contributions, Mary has built several bottle houses in her village -- including a jailhouse and lighthouse -- using some of them as gallery space. Mary does most of the construction herself, grouting the bottles and laying the roofs. By repurposing the bottles as bricks, and stacking them neck-out, Mary has a handy place to hang her artwork.

In the toy room: Superman, Snoopy, SpongeBob, and a selection of car show trophies.
In the toy room: Superman, Snoopy, SpongeBob, and a selection of car show trophies.

Red-headed and dressed for a day's work in the studio, Mary exudes kindness, tackling her craft like a diligent monk in a medieval scriptorium. Mary said that her car sometimes remains parked in her driveway for months at a time. "You can't be here, you know, like 24/7, and travel much," she said. That's a bonus for visitors, because at Mary's Gone Wild it means that you not only get to see Mary's art, but Mary as well.

"When you get out here, you may have some problems you got, you know, on your brain or whatever," Mary said. "And you get out here and you start slapping [paint onto] things, you forget all your problems. And the world goes through and the day goes through and you're happy."

Mary's Gone Wild

Address:
2431 Holden Beach Rd SW, Supply, NC
Directions:
From US-17-BUS/Main St. in Shallotte, turn east at the stoplight onto Smith Ave., which becomes NC-130/Holden Beach Rd SW. Drive a little over six miles. Mary's Gone Wild will be on the left, just past the driving range and Ludlum's produce stand.
Hours:
Daily 9-9 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
910-842-9908
Admission:
Donations accepted.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Wreck of the Mary E. MorrisWreck of the Mary E. Morris, Oak Island, NC - 12 mi.
Graves of the Gentleman Giant, Singing Ghost TonyGraves of the Gentleman Giant, Singing Ghost Tony, Southport, NC - 16 mi.
Memorial to a Bunker-Dwelling, Mysteriously-Dying HermitMemorial to a Bunker-Dwelling, Mysteriously-Dying Hermit, Kure Beach, NC - 21 mi.
In the region:
Shark Entrance, North Myrtle Beach, SC - 22 mi.

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