September 1 - October 1, 2022
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 1st, 5:30-7:30 PM
Dolby Chadwick Gallery is pleased to present Terraqueous, an exhibition of new work by Danae Mattes.
Over a career of heartful experimentation and commune with clay, Mattes has developed a unique language of art-making using the earth as both subject and material. She references and recreates alluvial environments, her work is both an ode to and enactment of the natural processes of the earth. This two-fold exhibition showcases Mattes’ signature wall works alongside new elements of video and photographic media.
In discussing her landscapes, Mattes references a German prefix — ur . The term translates as ‘primeval’, indicating that the environment it describes is original in essence, remaining in a natural state. This concept is evident in Mattes’ work as she creates art that mirrors the earth in aesthetic and in actual process. The clay and mineral sediments, water, air, humidity and gravity react on the canvas just as they do in the landscape — aqua melding with terra as dictated by the environment. In Mattes’ work, “everything that happens on the surface of the earth happens in fractal proportion.”
Each wall work is a dynamic surface of clay upon canvas. Each element, from beginning to end, is of the earth. Mattes manipulates consistencies of primary clays in a sculpted base layer, applying oxides, raw pigments, and thinned clay as de facto watercolor. The result is a series of abstracted landscapes with ruptured and rocky texture, illusions of watery surfaces, and mesmerizing hues of earth and sky intermixing and splitting at horizon lines. New to this body of work is the use of mica, aluminum, and metallic pigment that causes the clay to alternately absorb and reflect light as one walks before the canvas. Moments of Opening catch a metallic glint from the sun. In Iron and Copper , naturally occurring pigments yield wholly unexpected colors. Fissures in the surfaces of these works are shadows of dried-up water beds, marking the fusion of earth matter with plant matter in these alluvial recreations.
In Mattes’ work, there is an inherently earthen quality and a clear through-line of water as vital life source, but there are also suggestions of skyscape, and unexpectedly, of a certain humanity. Natural cycles carry water into the sky, condensed into clouds, returned to the earth, and flowing within the human body, following the natural channels and veins of each destination. In observing Mattes’ landscape, the viewer feels an instinctive connection with the biology of the work.
In Terraqueous , the titular video component of this exhibition, Mattes externalizes this connection between body and landscape. Extracting from source material of a three year collaboration between the artist, Hope Mohr Dance, and musician-composer Henry Threadgill, Mattes has created a video alternating between shots of activity and life—water flowing and pooling on the surface of a clay environment, human bodies interacting with the material and one another—and shots of a dried up ecosystem, weeks after all water has evaporated from the surface. The environment is an evolution of Mattes’ Evaporation Pool installations, massive clay basins filled with water, this time with an added structure altered by the dancers’ interaction.
Each accompanying photograph depicts details of the drying and dance-impacted environment. These images serve to capture a time sequence, outwardly articulating the catalyzing influence of time that has always been intuited in Mattes’ work. The evaporation and the drying of clay, though integral, are unseen processes in Mattes’ wall work, understood but not directly observed. These photos bring the cycling of water in and out of the earth to the visual foreground. In Water, Day 49, Evaporation Pool XII , hairline fissures maintain a minute amount of moisture in the photo — twenty minutes later and the moisture is gone.
For Mattes, the landscape is deeply personal. There is an urgency and boldness in her reverence for the earth that translates in the spirit and dynamism of the work. Constant experimentation is a crucial part of Mattes’ practice and a means for deeper understanding of the subject and material of the landscape. She is immersed in the medium and awed by the practice, honing an intuitive sense of how water and earth may find their breath in one another.
Danae Mattes was born in 1958 in Rochester, Pennsylvania. She earned her BFA from Edinboro State University in Pennsylvania in 1980 followed by her MFA from Long Beach State University in 1984. Mattes’s work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, recently “Where the River Widens” at the BYU Museum of Art and “Transitory Waterscapes” at the Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame. She has been commissioned to create public artworks both nationally and internationally. Her work can be found in the permanent collections of the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento; the San Jose Museum of Art; the Snite Museum of Art; and the Schlossmuseum Landeck, Austria.