by Richard Nilsen
In physics, there is the awe of the very large and the matching wonder of the infinitesimal: galaxies and quarks.
And there is a rough mirror symmetry. In one there are electrons orbiting a nucleus, in the other, there are planets orbiting a star. Sometimes, the imagery can conflate. In either case, the scale of beauty simply takes no note of human existence, yet because of that, defines human existence.
The lyrical art of Mayme Kratz uses the most humble of found natural objects - the tiny detritus of nature's constant churn, such as fish bones, winkle shells and pin feathers - and fashions images that burn like astronomical photographs.
The artist embeds these tiny worlds of nature in large sheets of acrylic resin and scrapes and sands their surfaces to a machine smoothness. You see a spiral of small seashells breaking the surface of the resin where she has sanded into them, or an orb of white fish bones and bird feathers glowing like a moon in a dark sky of black resin.
It's hard not to see these large, square panels as anything but celestial imagery. They are swirling galaxies and sun-blanched planets.
Yet, while there is a scientific hardness to most astronomical photographs - burning icy pinpoints of stars in a black void - there is an essential and warm softness to Kratz's work. The resin that is her primary medium is translucent, and the colors she adds to the plastic descend in clouds from the smooth surface of the work, making irregular nebulae like squid ink in the sea: It has a visual depth, like looking into a dark pool. You don't look at her work; you look into it.
And because she has sanded down the surface, she cuts into the tiny shells, leaving their inner whorls open to our sight: Inside each of those winkles is another entire world of texture and color, on a tiny scale on the large panel. The micro and the macro each with its message to impart.
In the current show, several of the works have been made in response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is clear from her art that Kratz has a sensitivity to the beauty and the process of nature - including the death that turns flowers into fruit and humans into cemetery lawns - and her dismay is evident in several works, including a series of brown pelican skulls embedded in blocks of resin, titled BP (Brown Pelican).
But Kratz's strength isn't outrage or even hurt. It is in the conflation of large and small, personal and cosmic, each with its awe and its intense beauty.