Michèle Ratté: Inspiration = Invention
"We enter into a much broader existence when we experience
the stones and the weather, the ongoing life around us, as part of ourselves."
Growing up with a geologist father and living in the Arizona desert, mountains of Vermont, and beach communities of the West Indies and Martha's Vineyard have influenced Michèle Ratté's aesthetic sensibility. The natural world is compelling and fundamental to her process.
She writes, "Alchemy, geology -- from the original Greek GEO and LOGOS (earth + word/speech) -- and ecological concerns are of particular interest to me at this time. In recent studio work I explore an alliance between precious and base metal-patterned textiles, and primordial rock or animal-grown shells and fossils. The works presented here are selections from a series on the theme of aquatic life. They are mixed-media assemblages made in response to years of living on an island, collecting objects from beaches while traveling, and studying coastal environments: both actual and mythical."
Ratté earned a BA in Visual Studies from Dartmouth in 1977, with a concentration in printmaking. In 1979 she moved to Martha's Vineyard, established a printmaking studio with an etching press and a serigraphy shop, and spent several years teaching workshops in etching, monotype, and screen printing. While experimenting with photo resist and color removal techniques, she invented a proprietary method for textile discharge printing ("enlevage").
In 1989 Ratté was awarded a residency at the Edna St. Vincent Millay Colony for the Arts in Austerlitz, New York. While there she made a series of large-scale collages and invented a wax-resist printing process to augment her textile discharge printing method. Also in 1989 her textiles were introduced to a buyer from Barneys New York, initiating a business venture that became Michèle Ratté Fabric Design, Ltd. For a decade Ratté produced original designs on hand-printed textiles marketed through up-scale retailers as well as galleries and boutiques in the U.S. and Japan. In 1997 Ratté closed her textile production business in order to concentrate exclusively on studio work, and she recently returned to Vermont to live full-time.
Ratté's accomplishments in technical innovation now also include a U.S. patent (2006) for the invention of a process for permanent printing of precious metals and mineral grains onto textiles. The metalizing process was developed with master dyer Joan Morris and chemist Dr. Miklos Breuer over the course of several years. Ratté and Morris went on to found Hesperides Research, LLC, and collaborated on a series of large-scale monoprints using the patented gold-printing method. Their latest collaboration, "Animation 5," was included in the exhibition "State of Craft: Fifty Years of the Vermont Studio Movement" at the Bennington Museum of Art, May-November 2010. Three of their other large-scale collaborations are in the permanent collections of the Wadsworth Atheneum Art Museum (Hartford, Conn.) and the Rhode Island School of Design's Museum (Providence). Other exhibits of Ratté's work include one- and two-person shows, as well as juried group and international shows, at galleries, institutes, and art centers in several states, Europe, and Japan.
For further information and to view more of Ratté's artwork, visit her website at www.micheleratte.com.
Copyright 2012, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont