Mystic of the masks

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I met Trudy Kraft a couple years ago when she had me in for a studio visit. I was writing an essay about her work and since the work involves a lot of process I wanted to hear about it first hand in the studio and get stepped through the series of events that led to a piece. (image is installation shot of Kraft’s show at Gross McCleaf Gallery, up til June 13)

Kraft, a charming, intelligent and hard-working artist makes her magic in a 3rd floor studio in her house. It’s a snug attic aerie with views of the treetops and lots of light. The artist’s finished work, most of it quite large (I’m talking 4 ft. tall by 3 ft. wide) and all of it on paper was stacked neatly, some pieces framed, some unframed, and placed to one side. See her website for biography and more images. (image left is one of three panels called “Invocation” that remind me of black lace, refined, mysterious and sex. This is “Invocation 053” and right is a detail)

The work in progress was all over the place — on the walls and on the tables, for the artist works more than one piece at a time and surrounds herself with many paintings allowing patterns and motifs to flow between one and the other.

Kraft’s pieces begin with large motifs laid on in washes of color. Overall, the works’ designs imply windows, lace, carpets, tapestries. What makes them unique is the incredible embellishment of the underlying pattern with a repertoire of dots and lines and more washes of color and areas of masking fluid which she puts on and takes off repeatedly to reveal surfaces underneath. The finished piece is a riot of microcosmic patterning, all hand-made, sitting on a larger, macro-cosmic design. Getting lost in the micro- and macro-cosmos of Kraft’s work is a dizzying pleasure that also gives your cones and rods a workout. (image is “Invocation 052” )

Here’s what I wrote about Kraft’s art in that essay, and it’s true of her work today in its current installation at Gross McCleaf Gallery as it was when I saw it in the artist’s studio. (image is “Invocation 051”)

Trudy Kraft’s works on paper are songs in praise of cosmic interconnectedness. Her universal signs and symbols — radiant hemispheres, leaves, dots, and spirals — point beyond themselves. Her saturated reds, greens, yellows and blues provide long, satisfying drinks of color. Kraft orchestrates symphonies to the wonders of life — its micro and macro excellence, its unbelievable design, its mystery.


Kraft, a Texas native who lives in Haverford with her family, has had far too little exposure in the Philadelphia area, something that mystified me in 2003 when I first encountered the work. I didn’t understand why she wasn’t on my radar. While she had been in numerous group exhibits in the region and was in fact a Pew finalist in 1993, she was underrepresented here for what is gorgeous, ambitious work. (image is “Nightlife 051” and below is detail)

Last year, Kraft had a solo exhibit at Show of Hands, a craft boutique with a gallery space. Here’s my PW review of that show and a thumbnail sketch I posted here on the blog.

With her first exhibit at Gross McCleaf (and several of the works sold when I stopped by shortly after the opening) Kraft’s emerged onto the radar at last. I’m so glad to see it. The current installation in the gallery’s large, well-lit back space plays up the works’ elegance and its appeal.
kraft, trudy

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