Beholding Beauty Art Center hosts reception for multiple art installations in May

by: Matthew Caine

There are three amazing artists, each a virtuoso of their chosen forms, exhibiting for the month of May at the Willits Center for the Arts. The latest shows, which both had an opening reception on Saturday night, are an eclectic blend of creativity and expression. Upstairs are the paintings and texture studies of Holly Cratty, a fine artist and poet who unfortunately passed away in 2012. In the main gallery downstairs is the show collectively known as “Vessels,” which is a juxtaposition of HP Bloomer’s ceramic vessels and Craig Gardner’s photographs of the “vessels” that are pregnant and nursing mothers. Holly Cratty, who was known locally through her work at the Blue Sky Gallery, was a renaissance artist who practiced various forms of paintings, from stunning sunsets and seascapes, to deep texture studies. According to her husband, Scott Cratty, she would obsess on one form of painting until she exhausted her energy and interest in that form. Then she would find another discipline and work on that form until she would find another technique that would interest her. Her dedication is evident in the work that is being shown in the upstairs gallery. She also wrote books of poetry, one of which is available at the gallery. Gallery manager Holly Madrigal reached out to Scott Cratty to fill the space, which was a challenge, as Holly Cratty’s work is being shown in seven galleries concurrently and there was – at a first look – little left to show other than some “juvenilia and intense geometric abstract stuff” which may not have been apt for the space. Luckily, Scott Cratty was able to find some excellent examples of his wife’s work, which will be exhibited for two months in her show titled, “One of a Kind.” The Crattys are known in the area for opening the Westside Renaissance Market in Ukiah at 1003 West Clay Street. The market is the “last neighborhood market in Ukiah,” specializing in local foods and a vast variety of beer. HP Bloomer IV’s work, in the lower gallery, is a blending of various forms of ceramics, which are decorated with iconic and primitive-seeming designs. “[The] patterns originate from an interest in interior design, fashion design, architecture and painting,” reveals Bloomer. “The patterns, through repetition, become narrative for me. I use them in the context of personal language as it relates to people close to me, experience, or geography. I use them to tell my story.” Bloomer comes from a creative ceramic family in Texas. He was exposed to the art form at an early age by his mother who has a master’s in ceramics. He now lives in Cobb and teaches ceramics and sculpture as an adjunct professor at Mendocino College in Ukiah. He originally pursued a degree in painting and drawing, but ended up with a master’s in ceramics. Bloomer asked the gallery to place flowers in some of his pieces. He likes his work to have function as well as form. “There is something nice about ceramics that, when it’s approached correctly, is a bit subversive, in that most of the objects are generally very accessible to the viewer,” he shares. “Anyone can relate to a mug, or a cup, or a butter dish. Our society is so far away from handmade objects that in some regards, I consider it a rebellious act to make an art object that is a functional, everyday piece of art that the owner can interact with in very personal spaces in their lives. Bloomer concludes: “So I’m kind of putting that message into their hands and sending it out into the world. People then can be creative in the way they display the piece, where they place it, and how they use it.” Photographer Craig Gardner has been an integral member of the Willits Center for the Arts for several years, participating in the Willits Photo Club and their yearly shows. He came up with the concept for this show a few years ago when he observed controversy concerning mothers nursing in public – an act that he considers a beautiful rite between mother and child, and one that should not be stigmatized and vilified by the misperceptions of people who fail to see the beauty.

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