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Michele Ratté’s Circle of Life

Escalier

"Escalier," 2011- 2015, 22K gold prints on silk, fossilized stones, shells, glass beads, Cambodian bells, stainless steel wire and cord (photo by Rachel Portesi).


All That Glitters…

by Elizabeth Michelman

The shimmer of Michele Ratté’s gold-infused sculptures and prints is not just decorative veneer. Precious, permanent and pure, gold in her hands is not just a physical material, but a transcendent one. It is an ideal medium for cross-referencing the natural and archetypical cycles of birth, death and rebirth that frame our existence on this planet.

At an early age, Ratté accompanied her father, a hydro-geologist, on treks into the Arizona deserts in search of signs of water. As he mapped, she picked up mica and fools-gold from the sands. Later he taught marine geology in the Virgin Islands, where she kept up with high school classes by correspondence and swam with schools of fish among the coral reefs. Ratté’s feeling for form is instinctive in her fingertips. Her mother sewed the children’s clothes by hand, and Ratté remembers running through the fabric stores smelling and touching every bolt.

Midway through her art career, things changed. She and her colleague, artist Joan Morris, invented and patented a printmaking method that permanently bonded nano-thicknesses of precious metals and mineral grains to a substrate. Metallic veils and carapaces have since become a hallmark of Ratté’s forms. Seductive yet not cloying, these shining skins hold opposites and complements in tension. Articulated steel wire and glass containers hint of exoskeletons and permeable boundaries.

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