Inspired by the Natural World: Mary Jo Kattelman

We often say that art makes us soar: it lifts us to a higher level. The Alliance Art Gallery’s July guest artist, Mary Jo Kattelman, loves soaring birds and that love takes us on a very unexpected inner journey.

Kattleman lives in the country, hangs her clothes on the line, grows her own food—and has witnessed the flight—and the death—of her avian companions. Nature is important to her. As an elementary art teacher for 26 years, she explains, “My focus has been to convey the interconnectedness of history, art, and nature—including our impact on the environment. Nature is important, especially the birds who live near me.”

Strangely most of us have rarely seen a dead bird. How many miles have we walked in the woods, through meadows, by streams, and never seen a fallen sparrow, or crow, or cardinal. Yet she sees them, and deeply touched, offers us a moment to stop and see life stopped, in beauty.

“When I find birds dead, it is a gift to study each individual closely as a testament to the spirit of life. One can’t help to ponder the effect of future environmental changes on bird populations. Everything changes, degenerates, decomposes, and regrows.” She hopes every species she has captured in drawings and watercolors will flourish decades from today.

She also explores the inter-relationship between humans and nature. One award-winning cedar box turned on a lathe and hollowed out using a Native American burning technique honors the eastern tribes creation story. Sky Woman falls to earth when it is covered in water. Animals save her by swimming to the bottom, gathering dirt, and placing it on the back of a turtle, which grows into North America.

For Mary Jo Kattelman, art is a messenger, a reflection of nature and its inherent wisdom. She knows we, as a people, cannot thrive or even survive apart from our forests, birds, butterflies, earthworms. She knits us together—viewer and viewed—through her art.

Please join us for the opening reception on Saturday, July 8 from 5 until 8 pm.