Web posted Sunday, November 14, 1999
5:57 p.m. CT

Ingalls: Kraft feeds visual hunger

Trudy Kraft's "Recent Works" at the Amarillo Museum of Art, 2200 S. Van Buren St., is a visual feast.

What's the substance of this abundant repast? Energy. The main source of this is color: profuse, vibrant hues sometimes subdued, sometimes intense. It's "all-over" color that conveys feelings of joyful, sensuous exuberance.

These displays of chromatic exhilaration are carefully constructed. In some cases there are references to design elements from nature, primarily flowers and radially-extending desert or prairie plants. But these are just references, not descriptive depictions; Kraft's vividly-designed world is one of color and line and textures, seen this way for the first time - without recourse to re-cognitive imitation.

Nevertheless, memory enters into the game - or dance - of essentially painterly elements. The Sonora desert and New Mexico's Mora River appear in titles - along with more abstract references such as "Embryonics" and "Cosmogenesis." The latter may seem ambitious, perhaps abstruse - but in context of the flow of design and color they are meaningful.

Take, for example, "Cosmogenesis." A band of lighter value mediates between a bright, hot lower level (with plant-growth references) and deep, cool designs above. Upper and lower levels are connected by irregular lines. Surely it's appropriate to feel here the generative forces operating between the earth and the "beyond" - a matter of energies in exchange.

Dots abound - as do curvy lines, sometimes extended, sometimes tightly wound. I think of current debates in physics as to whether waves or particles are the fundamental conveyors of energy. Kraft's answer to this debate seems to be "Why not both?" Dots and waves, as well as repeated configurations of both geometric and organic patterns, add substantially to both the textural richness and structural coherence of the paintings.

Basically these are watercolors, on large and medium-size sheets of firm, heavy Arches paper. Opaque (gouache) as well as translucent watercolors are used. Frisket, a masking medium, also is used to facilitate denser layerings of color and texture. For more information on Kraft's working process the museum has a video of the artist conducting a workshop. It's notable that Kraft's own artistic education includes influences from sources all over the world, particularly Japan, where she has lived for extended periods with her Buddhism-scholar husband.

One aspect of these paintings that intrigues me is that the designs that appear flat - for example, the several "Mendel Garden" works - are just as successful as ones where there's a sense of flow into or across space. This success comes from the realm of vibration: extension or containment make little difference; Kraft's visual energies radiate equally well in various spatial formats.

Being in the gallery is rather like being in a garden where you let go of any concern for particular varieties of flower and simply allow all the color to soak in. Into your eyes, yes, but the color also sneaks in under your skin. Either way it lifts the spirit.

Raised in Amarillo, Trudy (Klingensmith) Kraft now lives in Pennsylvania. Her show is a wonderful expression of the fact that an artist goes somewhere else when creatively engaged. This elsewhere, for Kraft, is place where feeling and touch, nature and thought, vision and energy all interact and become multiples of one another. The result is a bright, deep, thoroughly entertaining sort of art.

Hunter Ingalls received a Golden Nail Award for support of the arts with Lost Circus gallery and performance center in 1989. His many years of experience as a teacher include faculty positions at the University of Texas at Austin and Columbia University, where he earned a Ph.D. in art history in 1970. He may be reached in care of the Globe-News or via e-mail at:

Contact Trudy Kraft