19 May 2014

[art] Meredith Dittmar At Muse: Creative Process From The Inside Out

On Saturday, 17 May 2014, as the May offering in Muse Art and Design's Artist-to-Artist talks, Peter and the crew hosted an artist I'd not heard of before: Meredith Dittmar. This is Meredith:

Meredith Dittmar at Muse Art and Design.

She works in polymer clay: Fimo, if I remember correctly. She takes it and assembles it into the most enigmatic ways and shapes; view her website, the picaresquely-named CorporatePig.com. The splash page will give you a big ol' taste; click through to her homepage and thither to the portfolio. Cute characters cavort amidst abstract confections that are possessed of the hint of a mathematical reverence and resonance that is hard to put a finger on but tickles the imagination.

There's a reason for that. During her talk, she mentioned that her father was an engineer and her grandfather was a NASA rocket scientist. She didn't elaborate, but it's not hard to presume that she fairly swum in scientific verities as a youngster. Another anecdote seemed to suggest that she also has something of a suspicion of authorities; when learning vowels in school she was schooled up on the traditional five plus the sometimes-sixth, her father corrected this by saying that the sometimes-sixth was a full-fledged vowel, no sometimes about it, and furthermore there was a seventh*.

When relating this at school, this lowered the proverbial boom, and her father stuck up for her. I'm not sure of the eventual resolution, but bless that man, right?

Meredith struck me as a brilliant human who appreciated knowledge while at the same time rejecting the 'it has to be' structure that knowledge is sometimes unjustly straitjacketed into, at least by way of authority. She worked, by a sort of gestalt way, to cause me to come to the conclusion that while there is a great deal that is knowable, capital-E-Everything is unknowable, or at least not-quite-completely-knowable, which appealed to me on a Tao level. And my impression was that this was a tremendous informative data line on her own work.

She shared with us a lot of images of idea boards that she kept. Patterns, clippings, fractal patters, mathematical formulae scampered about on them in happy semi-anarchy. The genius expressed … the jelly somehow nailed to the wall and not nailed to the wall, all simultaneously, which is a heady experience for any armchair philosopher and aspiring artist trying to find direction.

In retrospect this formed a sort of base stratum for what was happening concurrently. Everytime I think of it, I get a little more impressed and in awe. See, she never showed off much of her work, but she showed off a great deal of her working, or at least her possibility. At the beginning  of the hour-long talk, she distributed small cut pieces of Fimo and invited us to play with them at will, but without taking our attention from her. She did her talk about her life and influences and work, and I kneaded my bit of Fimo about without taking it too seriously.

My bad there. A word on that presently.

At the end of the discussion about her and her work, she asked us to take part in two 'experiments'. They both involved yet another lump of Fimo, but we were to listen to two recordings of physicists discussing quite abstruse concepts: the first, from its discussion of spin and color was no doubt relating to quarks, and the second was completely beyond me, but I did recognize the word eigenvector, though about the only thing I currently know about that is how to spell it. The important part about working was to simply observe your hands working the clay into whatever shapes the environment moved you to create, to get into that zone, and if we slipped out and got too self-aware, to pause a moment and refocus on the process of molding.

This is the stuff she plays in the background when she creates and the idea, as it seemed, was to see what sorts of things her audience would create. Whether she was compiling any sort of result or even per se looking for one we weren't clear on, and I suspect that wasn't the point anyway. All we walked away from the experience with was the experience, left to do its subliminal work on us; photos of past exploits showed spirals, geometric patterns, interesting prettiness.

Just before she left I got the chance to chat for a few minutes and found her intellect quickly drew me into a sort of orbit in which I started actively applying the experience to where I hope my own artistic growth takes me. I know this sounds kind of crazy, but she would say something and it would start this whole intellectual cascade, or at least that's what it seemed from my point of view. At this point, it's hard to put it into any specific words (never mind how prolix I've gotten here) what effects this is having upon me. Every time I look over the experience, it opens up again like another level of a Matrioshka doll.

She did talk for a moment about fractals, come to think.


The experimental process that she took us through, though, suddenly gelled for what I think it was, and what it will forever mean to me: the most effective look at the fabled creative process that I've ever had and probably ever will. She, as nearly as possible, without excess motion, deconstructed her own creative process for us, let us in, then reconstructed it about us so that we were suddenly on the inside looking out. I can draw parallels between the way I create when I'm in the zone and what she does, and see where it's different, and I can't put any of that into any less than the most clumsy of ramblings, but it's there for me. Elegantly and economically, and it continues to have impact after the fact because it worked on so many levels that one can only see when in the rear-view.

She taught me something without actively teaching a thing. How rare is that?

Oh, and the 'bad' I was talking of? I realized, on review, that giving us the clay at the beginning was also an experiment, but with different terms. There's that Matrioshka doll opening, again. And every time I think I've come to a conclusion on a thought generated by this, no fewer than two paths shoot out.

Clay isn't my medium, but she just might be amongst the most important artists I'll ever sit in on.

And you'll please forgive the rambling; each time I go over the experience I am once again beMused. It's hard not to be distracted.

*The classic 5 vowels are, of course, A, E, I, O, and U. The sometimes-sixth would by Y, naturally. The unknown seventh was cited as W. It makes logical sense, when you think of the sound the Y makes, which is fluid like a vowel, not staccato like a consonant, and any Welshman or woman can tell you quite naturally that W is a vowel (consider that the Welsh spelling of the English house name Tudor is Twdwr). 

1 comment:

Brenda said...

She works in Premo, a Sculpey brand. Amazing color range, including metallics.

The Wife™