Kate Mattingly at work in her studio | Courtesy of Kate Mattingly

Geometric explosions of color will mark the opening of Kate Mattingly’s solo show, “Fracture,” on Friday at Art SanctuaryThose explosions of color are Mattingly’s work, which mixes paint, bristol board, sintra board, acrylic paint and study of the atomic structures and microscopic shapes of nature.

Insider Louisville spoke with Mattingly by phone to talk about her practice, her output and how much she wants audiences to see the creator’s hand in her work.

“I went to school and graduated as a painter and started off painting right when I got out of school,” she said. “(Then) I realized that I really was drawn more to collage, and I worked better when I used elements of collage.”

“Delphinium” by Kate Mattingly

Mattingly conceptualized the bits of paper and other materials as discrete components.

“I was experimenting with building little building blocks that I could then bring together to make a final product,” she explained. “So just through some experiments and some materials I was working with, I kind of happened upon working in a more three-dimensional way.”

The result is somewhere between origami, sculpture and complex abstract papercraft. The works have hard, flat planes that come together in clusters of spikes and spokes, moving up and out.

Though the work is non-representational and abstract, Mattingly’s inspiration is very specific and real. She explained one instance of inspiration.

“I went to the Natural History Museum in Denver, and I was so inspired by all the different salt formations and crystals, and the rock formations and minerals, and just being amazed at how nature creates things that are so perfect,” she said.

The perfection of nature stretches far beyond minerals and vegetables.

“My visual references started to include a lot of, like, space and celestial bodies, and that’s when I started making the more long kind of shard-looking ones,” added Mattingly.

She explained that her work inspired by flowers and rocks might feel static, which led to another set of subjects.

“Whereas things that are flying through space definitely have a lot more motion, and I kind of wanted to bring that in,” she said.

“Crest” by Kate Mattingly

It may be a little easier to see the shapes of minerals or stars in Mattingly’s work, but she’s also drawn inspiration from the color palettes of flowers. The perfection she finds in nature informs her process as much as it affects her final product.

“I like rules,” she said. “I have to make a million rules for myself or I just can’t make anything. And it’s like nature does that, too. And nature makes things better than we can ever make things.”

When Mattingly describes nature, she also uses the word “creator” and said there is a spiritual component of the work for her.

“I connect in a very spiritual way to nature,” she explained. “I definitely think, for me at least, art-making of any kind is spiritual, because you are making something out of nothing. It’s hard not to think about the parallels between that and the natural world and how things are created out there, versus your little laboratory.”

Mattingly isn’t trying to communicate those things to the viewer. Instead, she sees nature, its rules and its spirit as a connection to being a creator.

“Rossette Nebula” by Kate Mattingly

“Even though all of the pieces come from something real, they’re not meant to really look like the thing they started off as … And sometimes you can tell, sometimes they retain a little bit of what they came from. But a lot of times they don’t at all.”

She said people viewing her work are much more likely to respond with curiosity.

“People are very curious about how I make them because they kind of defy gravity — there’s all these little pieces hanging on the wall,” she said.

Despite the thought behind her inspiration and her abstraction of shape from a concrete conceptual place, Mattingly said her process also is deeply affected by an aspect she feels is frequently looked down upon — at least in academia. Lay people seem to have a different response.

“I think people have been responding to them, well, just purely aesthetically. That is a big part of art-making for me.”

“Fracture” opens with a free reception at Art Sanctuary on Friday, May 3, from 6 to 9 p.m. Art Sanctuary is located at 1433 S. Shelby St.

Eli Keel
Eli Keel is “pretty much” a Louisville native. You may have seen him around town reading poetry, short stories, dancing or acting. He’s a passionate locavore, so you may have also seen him stuffing his face at one of Louisville’s amazing restaurants. When he isn’t too busy writing short stories, he blogs at amanwalksintoablog.wordpress.com.