Working out of a converted elementary school at the end of a dirt road, English-born painter A. Mary Kay takes inspiration from the natural landscape just outside her door. On walks across the Midwestern plains, she collects animal bones, desiccated plants, and other natural materials to use as inspiration for her dynamic paintings. Unsurprisingly, given this source material, Kay’s images address primordial themes of life, death, and cycles of renewal and change. Likewise, her process often incorporates rebirth and change, as she regularly returns to finished works to redo parts of the paintings or even sand them down to start over.
These subjects emerge in Zenith, a large-scale, three-panel painting filled with effusive color and exuberant mark-making. The artist shifts rhythmically between realistic representation and total abstraction, leading the viewer’s eye from the burst of fertile energy in the left panel and across the central panel’s white-hot petals and swirling sunrays. The dappled blues of the third panel, strung with strands of a web, imply the fathomless expanse of the night sky or the depths of a bottomless well—a full spectrum of life, death, and rebirth.