January 12 – February 23, 2019
Opening Reception with the Artist
Saturday, January 12, 2019
7:00 – 9:00pm
In December 2017 Bears Ears National Monument, which comprises over a million acres of Utah canyonland and contains an estimated 100,000 Native American archaeological and ancestral sites, was reduced by 85% to allow for resource extraction and other commercial activities. Three lawsuits have been filed and the fate of the monument is currently in limbo, as the desire for exploitation and profit is weighed against the existence of protected land and cultures.
This January at Lisa Sette Gallery, Mayme Kratz explores the significance of Bears Ears National Park with Dark is Light, a timely exhibit of limpid, expansive resin panels and sculptural arrangements that underscore the area’s spare, severe beauty and the pervasive presence of ancient human cultures.
During a recent visit to Bears Ears, the artist noticed how evidence of ancient human civilizations was ubiquitous, evoking an unexpected sense of urgency in Kratz and an unquestionable directive: “It’s not an undiscovered landscape, but it is still so full of mystery and spirit. I am overwhelmed by a sense of longing when I think in terms of what might just…go away. At this moment it feels that if we don’t speak about it, no one is going to.”
Kratz does not contrive to replicate a given environment or expound a specific narrative about the wild places that she explores. Instead her works present a personal catalogue of the humble particulate assortments exhaled from the vast systems of the natural world: the small bleached spinal segments and rib bones of animals who died in the brush, the roots and seeds and splinters that result when organic systems live and die, multiply and ascend. Her practice is not exclusive or precious: Dark is Light contains collections scooped from the periphery of a construction site, and from the side of the road outside a Bears Ears campground.
Kratz’s arrangements of biological matter in resin form majestic, glowing tributes to the foundational matter of the Earth’s biological systems. The Bears Ears site: the high desert scrub, severe canyonlands and sandstone buttes are one of many wildland constellations in the peripatetic artist’s orbit.
Kratz was further impelled by a poem titled “Culture and the Universe,” by the Puebloan writer Simon Ortiz, which concludes:
Without knowing why culture needs our knowledge, we are one self in the canyon.
And the stone wall I lean upon spins me wordless and silent to the reach of stars and to the heavens within.
It’s not humankind after all nor is it culture that limits us. It is the vastness we do not enter. It is the stars we do not let own us.
“From the last line of the poem I understood this austere sense of things at Bears Ears, of how small we are as human beings and also how destructive we are. It was so clear that I had to try to capture what I could from that landscape and bring it back, celebrate it, and commemorate its disappearance.” -Mayme Kratz