The Blog

Portraits and ponderings from the writing desk of Jill Foote-Hutton.

ALEX KRAFT, the nicest Kraft in the business!

mantis mlodis

(From Alex Kraft's Glossary, mantis: map a representation in scale and surface and mlodis: project determination toward a completion)

Each plaque $385
Each flower $35
Entire Installation $2770

From Alex Kraft's artist statement,

"I see the internal structure of the body as being comprised of two main aspects. These are the physical internal and the sacred internal. The first is that which is material: muscles, bones, organs, etc. These are visualized from macro organ level to micro cellular level. The second is that which is the intangible essence: emotion, intellect, intuition, instinct, etc. The sacred internal and the physical internal comprise the same energy. It is as possible to feel emotion physically as it is to have physical acts cause emotion."

So many things I want to tell you about this work and our experience with it here at JFH Studio. But first, I want to tell you about meeting Alex Kraft at Arrowmont in 2007 when she was in residence and assisting the Richard Burkett workshop. Anyone who has been on Scholarship, Work Study or acted as an Assistant at a workshop knows the potential pitfalls which are part and parcel of the overall rewarding experience. The regular "paying" customers--not all, not a blanket accusation here, but there does always seem to be one-- who will hang their hat on having someone to blame if their glaze runs, or comes out too shiny or if there is a crack in the work, etc. Y'know things happen and you should know if you're the assistant you're going to be a potential target. Alex Kraft is a kind, focused, interested, curious, generous individual and you can tell it upon meeting her in a matter of minutes, but I was really impressed with the way she handled disgruntled people and stressful situations. Nothing really earth-shattering happened, but the lady exudes grace and truly seemed unflappable and sympathetic. I admired her character. So it is really an honor to be able to show her efforts in our little space.

We changed our format for Alex's display and it was such a success I think we'll stick with it. Instead of hosting an opening we decided to go with an intimate dinner party, allowing the guests and hosts to focus on discussing the work and making art. Our table comfortably holds six, so Michael and I moved it up into the display area of our studio, right in front of the picture window where we could observe "mantis mlodis" while we ate from our table of tapas. We invited two local artists and two students. We all read the artist statement and looked over the glossary, discussing presentation, interpretation, craft, DIY, what does "lifeform" mean.

Alex's glossary was a sticking point for some and an entry point for others. It seemed to have the potential to elevate the work to an elitist plane, "You couldn't possibly understand the work, but I'll give you the key." The inverse is also true. Most abstract art is abstracted to a point where the audience can only confidently process formal qualities in the work. Any interpretation of meaning is left up to the viewer to read the statement, rely on their intuition or historical/contemporary background in art. With the glossary, Alex does offer a deeper poetry to already richly layered surfaces and materials. She does require her viewer to have the patience to want to understand and she rewards the patience and curiosity with pointed data.

Let's talk about surfaces and materials. As I was unpacking "mantis mlodis" I was so intrigued by the surfaces, and the hip late 60s color palette. Each island of the map is an organic wooden form surfaced with an orange fabric which has a golden serged edge. The orange is layered with printed pattern creating a topographical texture simultaneously providing a ground for a knitted landmass of rich green wool. The minute the objects were laid out on the studio floor I was put in an aerial view position which I couldn't shake even when the work was on the wall. The focal point of every island is a dark chocolate growth of hard, groggy clay.

Words: bloom, grow, morph, phallic, protusion, reaching, mouth

All these words flood the mind, and tiny clay flowers dance around the entire map, bring the viewer in and out of the environment. How does life spring forth from an environtment. Obviously we had a hard time diverting our attention away from the idea that these objects referenced land, but we also had a difficult time tying the work directly to the statement at the top of the entry. We were being very limited in our interpretation of "lifeform", and spent 20-30 minutes trying to fit a square peg into a really big hole. This led us away from the bounty of our dinner table and over to the internet to look at WWW.ALEXKRAFTART.COM where we were amazed, attracted and repelled. One of my students said, "I want to be in a room full of these objects, but I can't look at them." It seemed, even with a digitally translated image, the lifeforms were indeed invoking a physical response tied to an emotion.