If you have ever crossed a border dividing countries, states or counties, don’t miss Mary Kramer’s intriguing and mesmerizing show “Lines in the Earth,” currently on display at the Halcyon Contemporary Art Gallery in Terre Haute.

If you have ever puzzled over the meanings of Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall,” with the indelible first line, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” and the ever-lasting last line, “He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors,’” don’t miss this show.

If you simply appreciate paintings executed with a concentrated precision yielding thoughts reaching beyond the frame, don’t miss this show.

“Lines in the Earth” is made up of many works from Kramer’s “Border Series,” paintings that are a part of the larger “Lines” project.

So many lines, so many borders, are drawn by humans to clarify and rationalize what is often beyond clarification, not within the realm of reason. When we “write” on the land we inevitably create a new kind of vagueness. A line, be it a constructed wall or a surveyor’s carefully calculated boundary, lacks depth. Human beings must supply this.

Working in oil, pigment and beeswax on linen, Kramer brings to her work a clear beauty of brushwork, color and balance. Each canvas captures a small piece of land the artist has found on some state, county or pueblo/county border. A line scribed on the earth runs through each plot, invisible but rich in significance.

The show is perfectly mounted. Paintings ring the gallery, creating a “line” the viewer follows with growing excitement. Given close attention, each painting stimulates us to think about the many meanings to be found in Kramer’s “Border Series” paintings.

From my viewing, here are two examples of these thought provoking works:

In “Indiana-Kentucky,” what at first appears as simply a scramble of dried roots, leaves and a large and gloriously weathered stone, quickly becomes much more. Was that stone cracked and lined by expanding winter ice? Or by a metal wheeled wagon grinding its way north? Or by a grunting farmer wielding a heavy sledge, turning, as it was said, “big ones into little ones,” engaged in the hard work of clearing a field for spring planting?

And then, in the bottom lefthand corner of this piece there is that prominent, unconditional “X.” It won’t allow your eye to wander. Was it formed by what once were green shoots of grass, or stalks of some hearty weed? Your eye keeps finding it. Your mind mutters about it. When you finally turn away, is that stark “X” lingering?

In 1816, Thomas Lincoln crossed a border. He moved his family, including his 7-year-old son Abraham, from Knob Creek in Kentucky to Pigeon River in Indiana. The move out of Kentucky was precipitated by endless land title fights, fights he invariably lost to wealthier claimants. The new Indiana Territory offered stability and hope, exactly surveyed lands, clear property lines.

Thomas Lincoln never quite found an “X” to mark a life for himself and his family in Kentucky. It was on to Indiana. I’d like to think this “X,” placed as it is on hard and weathered rock, can represent his settling down in Indiana.

And don’t we all have “Xs” of some kind in our lives? Some are permanent and most are fleeting. Kramer gives us both. For who cannot imagine a sudden wind blowing the slight, reedy “X” beyond the frame while the gold-brown cracked rock remains, settled and stable?

Our lifetimes have been much about lines and borders, walls and fences and wars.

“New Mexico-Colorado‚” in Kramer’s “Border Series‚” is exquisite.

Forgetting she has the artist’s eye for acute perception, you want to ask how did she ever find this wonderful small square of landscape on the land? The stones are of so many varied hues and appear not arranged, but alive. They are certain to move into new configurations once intrusive human beings walk away and leave them to the life they lead without us.

A kind of war was a major part of Colfax County history. This county was once part of the Maxwell Land Grant. Lines were drawn and two million acres of land became an inland empire. This empire was located along the northern border of the New Mexico Territory and stretched into Colorado. Between 1860 and 1900, Hispanics and Anglos alike engaged in what can only be called a “war” of resistance against the Maxwell Land Grant forces from the east who were determined to incorporate age-old communal lands into vast commercial holdings.

Drive north from Santa Fe and you will be in Colfax County. More than 200 died in the Colfax County Wars. Historical markers may dryly relate this story of a century past. And perhaps the stones in Kramer’s “New Mexico-Colorado” are familiar with these land wars as well.

Even if Mary Kramer has recorded the exact location of each of her “Border Series” plots using a GPS device, we would find it impossible to return, revisit the sites of these inspiring paintings. Kramer’s work is unique. And what you will see in this very special exhibit will be unique to you if you allow your own thoughts and imagination to cross the line between bland literalism into the invigorating art of Mary Kramer.

“Lines in the Earth” is on display until Saturday at Halcyon, 25 S. Seventh St. For gallery information, call (812) 841-2884 or access artathalcyon.com.

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