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Posted: 12:55 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013

Artist Kate Maratta creates panoramas in miniature


Artist Kate Maratta creates panoramas in miniature photo
Austin artist Katie Maratta creates miniature drawings of the Texas landscape that measure just one inch tall but are a foot or more in length. A detail of Maratta’s “Horse in Shade,” 2012.

By Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

American-Statesman Staff

Katie Maratta has drawn miles and miles of Texas.

That vast, endless horizon holds endless artistic inspiration for the Austin artist. But, in a seemingly contradictory twist, Maratta renders those expansive yet minimalist panoramas in miniature.

Maratta’s so-called “horizonscapes” — sketched in graphite and ink — are a mere inch tall. Some are a foot long, others up to four feet long. One of her longest drawings was some 70 feet long.

Maratta debuts new work at Gallery Shoal Creek on Thursday in an exhibit that continues through Feb. 16. Maratta shares the gallery with painter Jill Lear.

“I grew up in West Virginia where with all the mountains you never saw the horizon,” Maratta explains.

In college in the 1970s, Maratta’s penchant for representational drawing was distinctly out of time with the then-prevalent trends of conceptionalist, abstract art.

“I felt like what I did was ancient, totally out of step, compared to everyone else,” says Maratta.

Maratta also spent years as a cartoonist, penning a syndicated strip, “Silent Pictures,” that satirized Hollywood and which appeared in newspapers across the country (including the American-Statesman).

That cartoon-esque kind of measured visual storytelling that methodically takes — or perhaps insistently leads —the viewer across the pictorial plane serves Maratta well in her horizonscapes. To take it all in, you’re forced to travel across the horizon.

But perhaps more importantly, Maratta’s oddball use of scale — rendering a vast vista in miniature — compels you to look, and then to look again. Walk up on one of Maratta’s drawings in a gallery and you might mistake it for a strange little white strip running across the wall. Only on closer viewing are you rewarded with the impeccable detail of her horizontal narratives.

Trees, swirling dust devils, highway signs, horses, hay bales, pump jacks, barns, farm houses, silos and endless stretches of roads and fences seem to roll by in cinematic fashion. Or perhaps it’s like viewing Texas through a car window on an invariably long road trip, watching the flat expanse of land roll by as you drive.

A diminutive flat expanse, that is.

Maratta’s mini-murals are like the clever opposites — or whimsical contemporary cousins — of the mighty 19th-century Western landscape paintings, the grandiose vividly colored scenes of Albert Bierstadt or Thomas Moran that celebrated the conquering expansion of Manifest Destiny philosophy.

But there’s no sense of authoritarian conquest in Maratta’s little horizonscapes. It’s quotidian markers such as wind turbines, state highway signposts, messy utility poles or a Whataburger franchise that Maratta memorializes.

Kate Maratta

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays through Feb. 16.

Where: Gallery Shoal Creek, 2905 San Gabriel St.

Info: 454-6671,

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