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Mayme Kratz's "Tumbleweed Bower" at The Icehouse

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Most people who drive from Phoenix to California and back would look through their windshields and just see desert. Mayme Kratz saw art.

Her installation, "Tumbleweed Bower," consists of tons of tumbleweeds from the west side of Phoenix that she built into an interactive structure. The 15-foot-high cube is currently at The Icehouse and will be open to the public tonight.

"I like to think of it as a structure of passion, inhabited by the wind," Kratz says.

"Tumbleweed Bower" includes solar lighting and a chandelier made from objects found under the tumbleweeds by Kratz and her crew (Elizabeth Goode, Mark Ryan, Stacey Rae McClure, and Rafael Navarro), which she dubbed "Team Tumbleweed."

The chandelier hangs in the center of the tumbleweed structure, adorned with shards of glass, broken bicycle reflector lights, discarded cigarette packs, and rusty pieces of metal. When the installation opens, long strands of found objects will hang from the chandelier to the floor, above a mirror.

Kratz says her inspiration for "Tumbleweed Bower" came from her road trips back and forth to California, and by male Bowerbirds, who build elaborate bowers (nests) to try and attract females. Bowers often include colorful trash discarded by humans.

"They make art out of our trash," Kratz says. "It's a lovely form of recycling."

To build "Tumbleweed Bower," Kratz and her team rented a cargo truck and made seven trips to the desert to haul tumbleweeds. Then they built a framework out of wooden beams, compressed the tumbleweeds to give them more structural integrity, and wove the weeds around the framework.

"It is an organic, ephemeral piece," Kratz says. "I don't know how long it will hold up, but it's scheduled to be up for ten days. Eventually, the weight of the tumbleweed will cause it to collapse in places."

Kratz will be giving a talk about "Tumbleweed Bower" and showing a film that details its construction at The Icehouse on Saturday night.

There's a $10 donation for admission, and proceeds benefit The Icehouse.

Kratz, who had her first exhibit at The Icehouse in 1989, is glad to have an installation there for First Friday. "The Icehouse is so amazing, and I think it's been taken for granted. People assume it will always be here," Kratz says. "I wanted to do something that would support them."

April 1-10; Sat., April 2, 7 p.m., 2011

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