Patricia Bertha-Mattingly: Artist in residence at Donges Bay Gorge
March 18, 2019 | Topics: featured artist
Patricia Bertha-Mattingly is one of 12 artists participating in a year-long residency program called ARTservancy, a collaboration between Gallery 224 in Port Washington and the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust. Each artist has selected an OWLT preserve to spend time in and to engage with. To read more about the artist in residency program, click here.
Artist’s statement by Patricia Bertha-Mattingly
I hope to give a sense of the place with a distance that leaves space for the presence of the miraculous in everyday life.
In September 2018 Jane Suddendorf of Gallery 224 invited me to join ArtServancy, a group of twelve artists, to partner with the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, Inc (OWLT). Each artist explores and creates a site-specific project over the course of a year, culminating in a group show at Gallery 224 in Port Washington in September of 2019.
I chose Donges Bay Gorge Natural Area, a 23-acre property located in Mequon along Lake Michigan and protected by OWLT. The preserve includes steep lake slopes, a beach, ravine, forests and an abundance of plants, trees and wildlife.
The property was originally owned by the Herbert Kurth family of Thiensville in the 1930’s. Kurth hired renowned Danish landscape architect Jens Jensen to design a site plan and Milwaukee Architect Thomas Van Alyea to design stone structures, two of which remain in good condition: a bridge crossing the ravine and a pool house.
The variety and richness of the property is enchanting. At the pool house I saw some old photos of the original pool and copies of Jensen’s plans. Immediately I began to imagine what the property might have looked like in the 1930’s.
Through the generosity of OWLT I obtained copies of Jensen’s site plan and planting plan. Much of this no longer exists and perhaps was never constructed. And so, my project began….
I took photos, made field notes, gouache sketches, and charcoal drawings referencing the Jensen plans. Eventually I decided to make a 6′ x 5′ triptych folding screen that would envelop the viewer in a montage of the property.
One side of the screen is a large black and white charcoal study for the triptych, incorporating wildlife (bobcat, deer, eagle, fox, butterfly) and structures from the Jensen plan that no longer exist (moon ring, swimming pool) or may never have been constructed.
The reverse side focuses on plants native to the area and, when completed, will be a color fresco in the style of the “La Villa di Livia,” a gorgeous 39 BC Roman illusionistic fresco of garden views, in which all the plants and trees flower and fruit at once.
The garden and historical feeling of the Roman fresco felt appropriate for my imaginary visit into the past and present world of the Kurth property. The plants in the mural will be those that were planted on the Kurth property, of course.
At the time of this writing I am researching the native plants identified in Jensen’s plan and practicing the fresco technique on a small scale model of the screen.
The title of the triptych is “understand her text”, a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Gallery – a selection of works by Patricia Bertha-Mattingly:
Patricia Bertha-Mattingly received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has lived and exhibited in Chicago, Mexico City, England, California and Wisconsin.
She works in a variety of media.
Her oil paintings are primarily landscapes, often of modest subjects that begin with small studies painted at some location, time of day or season that sparks enough interest to get her going. She feels seeing something ordinary and making it extraordinary is the challenge to painting outdoors.
She has recently rekindled an interest in dry point etching thanks to the support of Studio 224 in Port Washington. These images often evolve from sketches of esoteric astrological and Sabian Symbols.
Learn more about Donges Bay Gorge Natural Area here.
This is the latest is a series of featured artists in The Natural Realm, which is intended to showcase the work of photographers, artists, writers and other creative individuals in our community whose subjects or themes relate in some broad sense to nature, urban nature, people in nature, etc. To see a list of previously featured artists, click here. An exhibit of the work of ARTservancy artists in residence is scheduled to open at Gallery 224 in September 2019.
All images courtesy of the artist, except as noted. Eddee Daniel is a photographer and curator of The Natural Realm.