Mary Curtis Ratcliff


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Mary Curtis Ratcliff
About the author

After making sculpture for more than twenty years, in the 1990s I began to re-discover the pleasures of painting, drawing, and mixed media 2-dimensional works. One thing I have learned as an artist is that it’s an open-ended journey: an inquiring spirit leads you on and you never know just what’s around the corner. Each series is an investigation with its own subjects, form, and particular way of working. Each opens the door to the next. That said, certain threads connect all my work, across media. I began taking pictures when I was very young and looking back on this vast archive it is clear to me that I have always been inspired by natural phenomena. What I choose to focus on, photograph and make into finished compositions comes from constantly looking at natural forms. I intuitively seek out images that represent peace, calm, and mysterious complexity. The process of making these photos into works of art starts with taking all the color out of the originals. Sometimes the images are left untouched, but more often layers of thin acrylic wash, drawing, collage and transfers are applied to the surface to build up color. The underlying structures of tree branches, water, landmasses, swimming pools, luminous lights, shadows and reflections are not lost in this process. The photographs that underlie these works were made all over the world. A work like Parting of the Plates is characteristic. In a Zen garden in Maine, I discovered two stone circles set in the earth. By photographing and overlaying them, a third circle emerged, creating a larger pattern that integrates the smaller ones. Other layers in this image come from another Zen garden in Oregon, and birds on a branch in California’s Napa Valley. So on both a visible and an invisible level, these artworks serve as a means to discover the interconnectedness of things: patterns that emerge with the passage of time, and are then deployed across the space of an image.