October 16, 2013

Waltemath's powerful Dinwoody drawings

At Schema Projects, the unusual name for Joan Waltemath's 2005-08 series of graphite-on-Mylar drawings, "The Dinwoodies," comes from Dinwoody petroglyphs (rock carvings) associated with Mountain Shoshone and the Plains Shoshone Indians.

[Image at top: Joan Waltemath, Dinwoody I, 2005, graphite, colored pencil on mylar plot, 80 x 20 1/2 inches. Courtesy of the artist's website.]

Appearing throughout central Wyoming, the original petroglyphs depict owls, thunderbirds, hummingbirds, bears, bison, and other animals. According to the Chief Washakie Foundation, the Shoshone believe that these carvings are invested in spiritual power and should, as part of the natural order, remain on the landscape as they have for centuries.
 
Conceived through an intellectually rigorous process involving computer-generated mapping of virtual spaces, Waltemath's Dinwoody drawings are surprisingly tactile and visually evocative. Starting with virtual spaces, she translates the data into grids and then plots them digitally on Mylar, leaving the numerical coordinates intact on the edges of the grid. As the units are combined and filled in with graphite and colored pencil, Waltemath accords great attention to the size, shape, and sheen of each rectangle, applying the graphite densely, layer upon layer. When I met with the aritst at the exhibition, I suggested that the process is obsessive, but she disagreed, arguing instead that the labor-intensive nature of her undertaking is meditative.

Selfie taken in one of Waltemath's graphite drawings. Because the graphite is so reflective, they are impossible to photograph well.

As with her paintings, Waltemath says this body of work is governed by harmonic proportions, but the final result is far more idiosyncratic and mysterious than that rather clinical and analytic notion might suggest. The unfolded virtual space, like the Wyoming landscape for the Shoshone, becomes the vessel for her deeply focused meditative practice. These unusual and remarkable drawings, like traditional petroglyphs, have an aura that transcends time and technique.

"Joan Waltemath: The Dinwoodies, 2005-08: graphite drawings on mylar," Schema Projects, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY. Through October 27, 2013.

Related posts:
Umarmung or marsha's two ways: Joan Waltemath @ Pulse (2012)
Exchanging studio visits with Joan Waltemath (2010)

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