Enterprising Woman Mandy Mae Poche´

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Follow Your Art

Walking through Mandy Mae Poche’s gallery in Ponchatoula, it’s easy to assume each room displays the work of a different artist, but Mandy expresses herself through different styles, color palettes and subject matter. Louisiana themes dance on canvases from large to small. Figurative works in lively colors hang near impressionistic ones that whisper in muted tones. Reflecting her credo and original studio name, Follow Your Art, Mandy says her trajectory as an artist is the result of following her heart, rather than the well-meaning advice of other artists. “I’ve broken just about every rule I was advised to follow, but I can’t take this leap of faith without being true to myself. I was told to choose just one style, and that making mass-produced prints and selling online was the only way to make it financially. My different approaches reflect how I’m feeling or what’s going on around me at different times. I can’t express all that in one style or color scheme. We do make prints for special occasions, but I’m most satisfied when painting one-of-a-kind pieces that create a unique connection with the buyer. To me, that special connection is best made at the gallery where they can see it, feel it, and understand me – not through an online transaction.”

A True Artist

Mandy and her husband, Josh, met at church, and although their first date was an art walk, Josh didn’t yet know of Mandy’s secret calling. While working at a hospital to provide for her family, Mandy prayed to find an alternative to her “less than fulfilling” job while painting only as a personal outlet. Early in the relationship, Mandy offered to paint pieces for Josh’s new home. “I insisted she not go to the trouble because I was afraid I wouldn’t like them,” says Josh. “She did it anyway, and when I saw them, I was in awe. They were beautiful, and I realized she was a true artist.” Of her muse, business partner and husband, Mandy says, “He’s always challenging me to reach my potential and the reason this all happened.” With her father’s words echoing in her head, “Don’t pursue art, you’ll always struggle,” Mandy needed Josh’s intervention to see painting as a viable livelihood. After signing her up for Ponchatoula’s Art and Wine Stroll without her knowledge with just a month to prepare, Josh’s faith in her overshadowed her fear. Once committed, Mandy created more than 50 small pieces, sold nearly everything at the event, and got dozens of orders from enthusiastic, new fans. Not realizing Covid would soon hit, Josh encouraged her to quit her job. “Follow your dream,” he said. “We’ll figure it out.” Mandy Mae prayed and found faith in God, Josh and herself.

Art Can Make a Difference

Lockdowns, devastating storms and studio location changes didn’t damper the couple’s spirits or Mandy’s growing popularity. After outgrowing her first retail space, Mandy considered leaving Ponchatoula on the advice of others, but her heart’s vision materialized when a space on West Pine became available for Follow Your Art Gallery. When that building sustained severe damage during Hurricane Ida, Mandy’s response was to paint an inspirational “Louisiana Strong” message on the gallery window by generator light, in between stacking and protecting her artworks with tarps. In the aftermath and cleanup surrounding the gallery, the couple saw a community in need of care and food. Even though all they could offer was Mandy’s messages of hope and hotdogs, lines grew, with their battered storefront becoming a rallying place for rebuilding. “We served thousands of meals with money raised from the sale of storm-related artwork. That’s when you realize art can make a difference in the world,” muses Mandy. “My Dad has passed, but I think he’d be proud I chose this life.” 

Fine Art

When the search for a new gallery began, the Troxclair family offered unused space in their building across the street from Follow Your Art. Capitalizing on the new start, Mandy rebranded herself as Mandy Mae Fine Art based on her increasing popularity, commissions for largescale pieces, and the layout of her newfound space. “We now have individual rooms so I can display my art in collections rather than just the open space I had before. I can show my various styles in a way that makes sense and draws a diverse audience – which I love. My most popular pieces are displayed in The Church Room. I was always drawn to churches and inspired to paint them, along with old houses and barns, in an abstract style, usually in pastel hues with metallic accents. They just seem to speak to people.”

Right Where She Belongs

Inspired day and night, Mandy Mae paints pieces for her gallery, produces commercial and private commissions, hosts Sip & Paints, does live events including weddings, and curates her own art shows. “The next one is October 15, during Ponchatoula’s Art & Wine Stroll. The theme, ‘Affirmations,’ represents big emotions like ‘Wanted,’ ‘Brave’ and ‘Sophisticated’ through contemporary abstract female figures. The July theme was ‘Louisiana,’ and I sold over 80 pieces. It’s been a crazy ride and a dream come true at the same time, and I always wonder if I made the right decision. Ironically, it’s getting through the toughest times that shows me I’m right where I belong – following my art.”

Mandy Mae Fine Art is located at 128 West Pine Street in Ponchatoula. For more information, please call 985-507-4260 or visit facebook.com/MandyMaeFineArt.



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