October 31, 2016, by Richard Nilsen
I have enjoyed the art of Mayme Kratz for decades now, and it is one of my regrets that, having moved away from Arizona, I no longer see her shows in person. Seeing them digitally online cannot suffice — the computer screen (or printed page) cannot convey the deep color, the physicality of the texture, or the scale — and it is their palpable presence that carries the resonance (I almost wrote “resin-ance.”) But I carry with me the remembrance of them, just as I do the glowing pictures of distant galaxies. They illuminate my life.
I have written about her work many times over the years, but I wanted to include the close of a review I wrote in 1998 for a show the artist had at the Lisa Sette Gallery, when it was still in Scottsdale:
“For most of these pieces are constructed out of the findings Kratz accumulates while walking. There are butterfly wings, moths, sunflowers, a wizened lizard and bee wings, in addition to an entire dead bird, the capstone to her 5-foot-tall mini-obelisk calledThis Bird. The piece captures the light and glows with life. The bird itself, half obscured in the foggy thickness of an amberlike resin, is spread-winged in imitation of flight, yet obviously no longer alive. The ambiguity is central to Kratz’s art.
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2016, Milja Ficpatrik, WideWalls
Kratz was born in San Diego County, California. She is self educated and was focused on her creativity at an early age. So, in her early twenties she began as an apprentice to the artist James Hubbell.
Ever since she was a little girl, Kratz says, she felt “a sense of destiny” about pursuing the kind of art that she does today, and the way in which she brings value to the infinite debris of the natural world proves that she was right. Her later artistic shape experience includes stints at the Pilchuck Glass School and The Museum of Glass, both in Washington. She moved from her native San Diego to (as will turn out later) a very inspiring Phoenix in 1986.
For many years, Kratz worked in her studio south of downtown Phoenix. Even though she is showing her work all over the country, she sees Arizona as her natural home as it is a primary source of inspiration for her artistic expression.
As a part of her creative routine, Kratz is used to walk the trails in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve and Superstition Mountains. On those paths, her eyes are in constant pursue of weeds, seeds, feathers, insect wings or some other organic residues she might use to create an artwork. First step is to collect found objects, usually into her sun, hat so she can later examine nature’s castoffs under a microscope to study colors, textures, forms and patterns.
Kratz’s artistic strength lays in her ability to change unappealing aspects of nature into compositions that become ethereal; one can look at some of her pieces closely and still not realize what she used, whether is a fish bone or bird of paradise seeds.
Nature is the main and almost only source of her inspiration:
“I don’t see my life separate from my work in any way; the two go hand in hand. I am no longer looking at the horizon, I have become so focused and intimate that it’s as if I am looking at the environment under a microscope… I am looking at my own life the same way.”
Kratz has created and nurtured a three-dimensional language to express the crucial elements of her own poetry as a human being in balance with the surroundings.
Her three-dimensional creations highlight the interconnections in nature, space, and the creative spirit. Besides hanging and freestanding works, Kratz has also made a variety of videos and installations, including an interactive outdoor sculpture made of found tumbleweeds meant to disintegrate over time. Mayme Kratz also experimented with tree rubbings and various works on paper. She even imitated nature itself and fabricated nests from the materials she found on her walks.
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