Mairin Hartt

Untitled 2 (Against the Grain)
pen and graphite on toned paper and Duralar
11 x 14 in.

My work explores the uncomfortable, sublime space between existence and non-existence. Microscopic forms and processes embody the relationship between emergence – life – and entropy – decay and disorder. By mimicking these processes, visually and conceptually, the images examine the relationship between these forces. I contrast colors, textures, and methods of representation to parallel this tension. Watercolor and ink are used intuitively, while pen and graphite provide detailed and controlled mark making. Mylar and glass enhance the fragile and ephemeral quality of the work. The resulting images depict unknown entities and abstract spaces.

My most recent body of work, Against the grain, is a series of detailed mixed media-drawings referencing microscopic cross-sections of human tissue. My interest in the relationship between microscopic anatomy and processes stems from their role in creating and sustaining complex organisms. Their collective cooperation makes our existence possible. The focus on cross-sectional or transverse cuts of muscle and connective tissue results from the unique patterns and unorthodox shapes they provide. In comparison to longitudinal cuts, a cross-section cut seems the antithesis to the nature of self-preservation, a desire to maintain the whole. Severing a group of muscle fibers seems akin to severing a ‘connection’ to view the connection itself.

The selective cut-outs within the drawings add a sense of depth while the opaque dur-a-lar hints to the bright white negative space of a microscope. The notable absence of color allows the viewer to see the patterns and shapes without the obvious association to organic matter. Although hatching and cross-hatching creates textures different than those referenced, the meticulous technique and resulting fine lines parallel the infinitesimal precision of cellular and atomic processes. Admittedly, using achromatic value to remove the images from their context, may be a sub-conscious act of self-preservation when faced with the precariousness of physiological cohesion. An attempt to keep a safe distance from the fact that I too am the sum of cellular collaboration. As with all of my work, Against the grain is an act of fascination with the incomprehensible, the presence of order in a space ever-moving toward entropy. Drawing microscopic forms expresses a desire to understand something so miniscule yet so complex; something that is the basis of our physical being, that is responsible for the ability to exist.

© Mairin Hartt