Mayme Kratz, 48, is the type of person you just want to hug when you meet her. With a nest of curly auburn hair and a calming smile, she owns a natural beauty that ignites intuition and openness. Her serenity boldly invades her luminescent sculpture of embedded natural objects in layers of resin. Having grown up in a small mountain town near San Diego County in Southern California, Kratz has collected bits of nature throughout her entire life and now includes anything from plant seeds to animal carcasses in her gorgeous works, mapping the evidence of life, death and physical decay. Her studio, located near Seventh Avenue and Buchanan Street in downtown Phoenix, is a safe haven in an area teeming with crackheads and shady characters. One to embrace her environment, Kratz has become a part of her community and discovers daily inspiration among her homeless neighbors, as seen in her collaborative video installation with Helen Raleigh, "Urban Garden," included as part of ASU Art Museum's "New American City" exhibition.
Smell the roses in the Urban Garden. If they had stayed long enough to really watch it, I think they wouldve realized it was just about the conversation with the garden and barriers that were dropped when it happened. Everybody had something to talk about, and it was really interesting how there was a lack of fear when the flowers were blooming. On both parts on my part and everyone elses.
Love thy neighbor. And hell say, Youre being careful today, arent you? Which is his way of telling me theres some people on the street that I need to look out for. And so hell keep an eye on the building and he picks up trash for me, and in turn I give him money or Ill buy him something to eat, and well have a friendship for a while and then hell disappear somewhere else. Thats always a sad day.
My apologies. I dont feel unsafe. I have seen some things you wouldnt believe. Kind of amazed what people will do out in the open sometimes. All kinds of drug deals, and theres always a lot of sexual activity under the bridge. That sort of thing, I wont go into details. Sometimes people will know that youve seen them doing something they shouldnt be doing, and the next time you see them theyll apologize. So theres an awareness, too, on their part, which is a surprise. But its lively; its never dull down here at all, and I wouldnt want to be anywhere else . . . in the city, anyway.
Bring out your dead. I go out a lot backpacking into the Superstitions thats one of my favorite spots, but not only there, other areas as well. And sometimes people will give me things. Therell be a gift on my door, and Ill open the box and theres a snake in there. I tell people I dont like to know where things came from necessarily unless I found them. So Ill hide them from myself for a little while and then find them somewhere in the studio and use them.
What about Bob. Theres a body of work Ive been working on for about five years called Reconstructing Bob, and I was out in the Superstitions hiking and I found a bobcat that had been shot, and someone had taken its head and it was really upsetting to me because I knew it was just a trophy kill. I had a residency with the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, and I dried him out and cleaned him up and I took his spine with me. And while we were working, we kept thinking, What would Bob want to do now? It became kind of this celebration about this bobcat, so they made me a little drinking glass with one of Bobs vertebrae in the bottom, and so I get to have a glass of wine with Bob every night.
Bone collector. So I spent my childhood burying things and digging them back up and dissecting them, and in a way Im still doing that same thing. Its just that Im not using dirt, Im using resin, but still theres that burial process and then that reinvestigation and rearrangement.
Head games. I always like things once I use them to not look like what they are. Oftentimes Ill cast seedpods and bird heads together, and when you sand them back, they look the same. You cant tell the difference between the inside of a walnut shell and the inside of a birds head. I like playing games like that. Its kind of fun.
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