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Mary Curtis Ratcliff: Chosen Terrain

September 2008

Ratcliff Waterweb.jpg

Jamie Morgan & Mary Curtis Ratcliff

Chosen Terrain

Mercury 20 Gallery

25 Grand Ave. (at Broadway) 

Oakland, CA 94612

Exhibition dates: September 5 – September 27, 2008

Jamie Morgan and Mary Curtis Ratcliff open exhibitions of new work at Mercury 20 Gallery on September 5th with a reception for the artists from 6:00–9:00pm.(in conjunction with First Friday/Oakland Art Murmur).

Jamie Morgan’s interest in the urban landscape has evolved from a desire to make art from daily experience and reflect on the integration of natural and man-made beauty. The artist works primarily from photographs that provide essential information for translations to various media. In his survey of urban areas, Morgan is drawn to open spaces, specific times of day and light, and dramatic use of shadow. In defining a sense of place, the artist focuses on moments of silence amidst the bustle and change of city life, when the interface of the constructed world becomes seamless with the natural. 

jamie morgan "red house"

Jamie Morgan, Red House, 2004, pastel drawing on paper, photo by Jamie Morgan

For the current show Chosen Terrain, Morgan presents a group of pastel drawings focusing on street-scapes and architecture. The views of neighborhood streets and traffic capture the ambience of a fleeting moment, using color to fill the scene with air and light. The drawings of houses study vernacular building styles in Oakland and Berkeley. They are part of a larger set of drawings that Morgan has created over a number of years representing various architectural styles and neighborhood demographics.

Jamie Morgan was born in Princeton, New Jersey. He majored in Classics at Stanford and earned his MFA at California College of Arts and Crafts.  He has exhibited at Barclay Simpson Fine Arts Gallery (Lafayette, CA), Barlett Fine Arts Gallery (Pleasanton, CA), the Collectors Gallery (Oakland, CA), Hang (San Francisco), and Kala Institute (Berkeley, CA) His work is part of the collection of Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, MA, as well as numerous private collections.

East Bay artist Mary Curtis Ratcliff photographs and composes images that are generated from concentrated observation of natural forms. Intuitively, the artist seeks out images that represent peace, calm, and a mysterious complexity. Many circles appear in the work, evoking feelings of centering, harmony and unity.


Mary Curtis Ratcliff, Waterweb, 2008, digital ink jet print, xerox transfer, colored pencil on paper, photo by Peter Macchia

Ratcliff’s work in Chosen Terrain begins with photographs taken during a month-long residency at New Pacific Studio in Mt. Bruce, New Zealand. The images were printed and further worked with xerox transfer and drawing in her Berkeley studio. Most of these images combine two or more original photographs, overlaying close-ups and long shots: terrain near and far. For example, a small pattern found in the sand serves as a backdrop for an enormous looming rock at the end of a beach; a close-up of a spider web that had caught the dew is superimposed on a creek bed rippling with light.

The large diptych Parting of the Plates has a slightly earlier origin. In a Zen rock garden in Maine, Ratcliff discovered stone circles set in the earth. By photographing and overlaying them, a third circle emerged, creating a larger pattern that integrates the smaller ones. Ratcliff’s artworks often serve as a means to discover the interconnectedness of natural forms.

Mary Curtis Ratcliff was born in Chicago, IL and has lived and worked in the Bay Area since 1973. She has a degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and has shown her work at the Oakland Art Gallery, the Oakland Craft & Cultural Arts Gallery, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Artists Gallery, and has work in the collection of Oakland Museum of California and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts.

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Mercury 20 Gallery

475 25th Street, Oakland CA 94612
Tel: 510-701-4620

Gallery hours: Friday + Saturday: 12-5pm and by appt