Artist Spotlight: Mayme Kratz
Mayme Kratz, Nine Pages, 1995, mixed media in resin, shelf. Collection of the Tucson Museum of Art. Gift of Otto B. Rigan. 2003.25.7
Chief Curator Dr. Julie Sasse shares a one-minute introduction to Mayme Kratz, an Arizona artist whose work is in TMA’s permanent collection.
Fascinated by both nature and poetry, Arizona artist Mayme Kratz creates cast resin sculptures and two-dimensional works that examine the relationship between nature, human experience and psychological states of being. Imbedding in resin such materials as sunflower seeds, the wings of butterflies, bees, cicadas and birds, ocotillo skeletons, lizard remains, hand crafted nests and cactus parts, Kratz captures moments in time for poetic contemplation. At once haunting and elegant, the detritus from nature becomes elevated to aesthetic levels of consideration by her arrangements and subtle coloring.
To Kratz, the structure of grass and its roots reveals a form similar to what she observes in the night sky. Such revelations find their way into her dreams and ultimately inspire her poetry and visual art. Kratz often focuses on the overlooked plants, seeds, and weeds that proliferate in both rural and urban settings. By singling out these forms and embedding them in resin, she celebrates their singularity, beauty and interrelatedness.
In some of her work, Kratz focuses on the grasses found in urban landscapes rather than the grasses of the open desert. Many of these plant forms are invasive and thrive in areas where the ground has been disturbed, making it difficult for native species to grow. Just as the grasses are considered invasive, so too are people often seen as invasive to a desert rapidly becoming urbanized. This analogy recalls a line in the Carl Sandburg poem, Grass: “I am the grass; I cover all.”
To create her “Knot” series, she takes common grasses and hand-fashions them in swirls to resemble nest forms, which makes analogies between nature and home. Other works reveal the explosive beauty of a single splay of grass otherwise overlooked on an abandoned tract of urban land. A simple weed thus becomes fireworks or a constellation of stars. Ultimately, grasses can be considered a metaphor for the passing of time. According to Kratz, “In time, all that we do, if left undisturbed, will be covered over by grass. I remember this to be true from my childhood. I often created special places to play where I buried toys or built forts. If left unattended for a season, grasses would take over and my secret places became hidden, blanketed by grass.”
Kratz is the recipient of a 1995 Visual Arts Fellowship from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and a 2010 Mid-career Award from the Contemporary Forum of the Phoenix Art Museum. She has participated in artist residencies at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming (2010), the Desert Botanical Garden in Arizona (2007), the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State (1998) and the Cassilhaus Artist Retreat and Residency in North Carolina (2012).
Kratz’s works are found in the permanent collections of the Phoenix Art Museum, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the San Jose Museum of Art and the Tucson Museum of Art, among others.
See Mayme Kratz at work in her Phoenix, AZ studio in this short film by Eric Minh Swenson.
READ Intimate Discoveries: Nature and Poetry in the Art of Mayme Kratz, a 2002 essay by Julie Sasse
BROWSE 34 works by Mayme Kratz in TMA’s permanent collection
VISIT the artist’s website: www.maymekratz.com
WATCH Mayme Kratz/Stand Still, a 2013 documentary from Gnosis Media. Watch the trailer