Updated: Sep 16, 2020
For Mary Curtis Ratcliff, creation is her second language.
“When I was a little girl, my mother actually made all of my clothes from patterns and things like that. So, I watched her make things, and I started making things when I was really young – about 4 or 5,” she says with a laugh, “My idea of a good time when I was 12 was reading the blueprints for the cottage near Lake Michigan. It gave me this really great understanding of how things are built – and inspired this curiosity.”
Born in Chicago, Ratcliff grew up in Michigan and moved to the East Coast, where she studies at the Rhode Island School of Design. She came to California for the first time in the early ‘70s with Videofreex, a PortaPak-toting, countercultural video collective. With a long career in art and Art Education, she has always been a proponent of art as a creative and healing force for good – which makes her involvement with community human services non-profits a natural at this point in her life.
For Ratcliff, art can support and help heal communities. “I just started thinking that you know, I’ve been incredibly lucky and I am so grateful that I have been able to spend much of my life creating my work. After about 45 years of that, I wanted to give back to the community and have my work be of use to people,” she says.
Ratcliff first began working with kinetic sculptures made of hoops and fabric ribbons in California in the 1970s. About 5 years ago, she found herself returning to the circular form, now incorporating her imagery, both photographic and hand-drawn. She realized there was a relaxing, calming aspect to them.
“I thought it could be of use to someone else – so I started reaching out to places of healing, such as hospitals and homeless shelters, where they could have a positive effect,” she says, “I have been very fortunate in my life. It was time to step up to the plate and give back.”
Currently, you can see Ratcliff’s art in the following galleries:
The Siy Gallery in San Francisco is dedicated to assisting Mental Health Services in the area. 10% of the Siy Gallery’s commission from Mary Curtis Ratcliff’s art goes directly to Dorothy Day’s Mental Health Services.
The Mercury 20 Gallery in Oakland is an artist-run gallery, and is open with COVID-19 safety precautions in place. Mary Curtis Ratcliff will be presenting a solo show there in February 2021.
This past spring, Ratcliff produced a 5-minute Healing Circle Artworks video for patients and hospital workers – doctors, nurses and support staff – to help relieve stress and restore inner balance. The video is accessible and shareable for all who may need it, as it was made in hopes that it could help with our resiliency in this time of stress.
Check it out below, and if you have any feedback (or questions!), feel free to reach out to Mary Curtis Ratcliff via email at: email@example.com