Dolby Chadwick Gallery is pleased to present Vanishing Light, an exhibition of new works by Mayme Kratz, on view from April 2 to May 2. Nature figures as Kratz’s primary point of departure, her art attending not only to its cyclical rhythms and winkings of the sublime but also to those overlooked aspects of its beauty.
A resident of Phoenix, Arizona, Kratz is particularly drawn to the harsh conditions of the desert and the American southwest. She sets out on hiking and camping trips to explore the texture and soul of the landscape, frequently foraging for plant life, insect exoskeletons, snake vertebra, and shells, among other organic matter. These objects subsequently form the heart of her mixed media assemblages. Returning to her studio, she disassembles her findings, rearranging them on a panel before layering in colored resins that she sands down to a smooth, matte finish. The compositions often come to Kratz in dreams or, as with this body of work, in those suspended moments between states of consciousness: “Many of the images reflect what I see with my eyes closed, before I go to sleep at night.” They picture her foraged materials through a new, idiosyncratic lens, recasting their slighted elegance in unexpected terms while also conferring them with new life.
This way of seeing is exemplified by Vanishing Light 14 and Vanishing Light 15, which accentuate the hidden grandeur of snake weed by contextualizing it within an empyrean framework. In both, hundreds of delicate sprigs explode out from the center like rays of light to form a starburst arrangement. The deep blue and steely hues of the works’ resin encasings mimic twilight’s diminishing light, heightening the bright yellow of the poisonous plant and further affirming its rightful place in the sky. Violet Hour, whose title is a reference to T.S. Eliot’s poem The Wasteland, similarly conjures the cosmos using terrestrial elements. Here, a collection of seashells, snake vertebra, and rattlesnake ribs swirl as if a galaxy amid a field the color of the sky right before sunset, when blue turns to violet. Through her art, Kratz spotlights the startling relationship between earth and the celestial, noting how objects seen under the microscope often look stellar, while phenomena viewed through the telescope appear cellular.
This past year offered Kratz more opportunities to roam the desert. In addition to visiting Utah’s Grand Gulch and Cedar Mesa, she hiked the Grand Canyon, where she spent a few days along the Colorado River. Although she did not take anything from the latter location, she was profoundly influenced by its light and shadows. Many of the new works reflect these adventures, as well as the influence of Mary Oliver, the celebrated poet who passed away in January 2019. As the ravages of climate change intensify, Kratz turns to the poetry and prose of Oliver, who “dealt with sorrow by speaking about it and filtering it into something beautiful.” These recent works are, in part, an homage to Oliver’s words, whose powers “put some sort of creative, visual spell on me.”
Mayme Kratz was born in 1958, in San Diego County. Her work has been exhibited at the Phoenix Art Museum, the Tucson Museum of Art, the Scottsdale Museum of Art, and the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, among other notable institutions. She has received numerous recognitions for her practice, including a Contemporary Forum mid-career award and exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum in 2011 as well as residencies with the Art in Embassies Program, the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, and the Pilchuck Glass School. Her art can be found in public and private collections throughout the United States.