Two of Arizona’s favorite artists, Mayme Kratz and Alan Bur Johnson, are sharing space at Lisa Sette Gallery this month. And although they didn’t exactly collaborate on their works, they did have a few conversations prior to the show, says gallery associate director Ashley Rice.
A meeting of the minds is not surprising, given that Kratz and Johnson share an aesthetic of looking — and looking hard — at the overlooked, and then incorporating fragments of the overlooked into their works. Kratz creates transcendent compositions of seeds, grasses, pods and other botanical discards we usually ignore, placing them in harmonic arrangements on panels covered with paint and resin. Bur Johnson creates kinetic wall pieces from layered photographs of insect wings, feathers and other throwaways from nature; he places them in circular specimen slides and then arranges those slides in flowing, subtly colored patterns. Kratz, whose work is collected internationally, is a longtime contributor to the Phoenix art scene. Bur Johnson is a distinguished member of the art colony in the Arizona mountain town of Jerome.
And their pairing makes for a don’t-miss show, with their works presented side-by-side and grouped around informal themes. Viewers come away with a stronger perspective on our transitory and delicate ties with nature, as well as the mirroring of patterns in the earth, sky and beyond. Both artists — ever mindful of life and death cycles in our harsh desert — are able to transform their materials into works that are not only beautiful in both the micro and macro senses, but poetic as well.
In addition, both artists are supremely meticulous in their work. Kratz chooses relatively fragile items for her compositions — things like fairy duster seeds and cross sections of flower pods — yet she handily places them intact onto panels as the arrangements come together. I looked with awe on “I think I grow tensions 3,” which preserves the wispy quality of the ends of buffalo grass and lets them float around the edges of the central cluster. For his part, Bur Johnson works with scientific precision — he has a science background — in selecting and placing minute images of animal parts into transparent slides, and then using special dissection pins and coils to arrange the slides on the walls, often in patterns akin to bird murmurations.
My thanks to the gallery for providing images — the specifics are below. But realize that photographs of Kratz’s and Bur Johnson’s works don’t entirely do them justice. In-person viewing accentuates their fragility, dimensionality, movement, colors and textures.
The show, called “The Brief Forever,” runs through February 28. And a bonus: You can enjoy Lisa Sette Gallery’s wonderful new space in midtown Phoenix, in a restored mid-century building by Al Beadle. Did you know Sette is celebrating its 30th year? Seize the opportunity to see these two wonderful artists in a top-notch setting.
The image captions, plus two gallery views: