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Meredith Dittmar

Intricate clay sculptures explore nature, physics, ancient architecture and more

by Josh Rubin in Culture on 26 May 2010

MDittmar-7.jpgArtist Meredith Dittmar uses polymer clay and wire to deconstruct the human experience in colorful bas relief. Starting with mostly historic and scientific inspirations—The Hadron Collider, Aztec architecture, pixelation and integral theory among them—the Portland, OR-based sculptor creates mounted 3-D scenes of strange animals and otherworldly landscapes. Besides a variety of clays, Dittmar works with plexiglass, spray paint and resins, using fiberglass for larger pieces.

In an interview with Fecal Face (which also has some great images of her studio and process), Dittmar said of her work, "Typically I collect images, diagrams, math and words and surround myself with them before I begin a set of pieces—though once I start working, I only refer to them rarely. I throw it all into the brain blender and see what comes out."

Often featuring long, giraffe-like animals, seals, otters and other transported animals, the creatures cuddle, smile and nuzzle. Grown-up versions tend to be darker, but retain a signature soft warmth, like in the piece (pictured below) depicting a female animal pierced by an abstract force of industry.

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Sometimes cut open or dismembered to reveal some deeper, unfathomable anatomy, Dittmar bypasses the gore, leaving out blood, painful gashes or any other explicit violence. Even these sadly languid creatures emanate a peaceful quiet that, along with the painstaking symmetry so prevalent in the work, make her worlds comforting even when they're painful.

Her choice of material also contributes to this comforting aspect of her work. Polymer's puffy look and lack of sharp edges help Dittmar transport us, pushing the medium beyond traditional uses (made famous by Wallace and Gromit). This is, perhaps, the pervading theme of Dittmar's work. Even as the clay bends into fantastical, extreme creatures and scenes, the emotions they uncover are delicate, subtle and intangible.

Dittmar also makes two- to three-inch creatures called "My Guys" that she sells (starting at $16) Dot Dot Dash."

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Her multi-pronged approach to art has also led to several film and advertorial projects. An ad for Converse featured her work in the background, but several short animations for animation studio Fashion Buddha that will be played at Umpqua Bank are the real triumph. Aaron Sturgeon, a 3-D artist, copied Dittmar's creatures, right down to the fingerprints, to recreate as much of the original spirit as possible into the digitized version.

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Dittmar's work also attracted the eye of Brit lingerie line Freya, who commissioned her to create backdrops. FiftyFiveDSL got in on the action too and invited her to design a limited edition T-Shirt for their Spring/Summer 2009 Black Series.

Beside her mounted Polymer pieces, Dittmar created elaborate, light-up scenes that turn the already supernatural work atmospheric. (Pictured above.) These, made in collaboration with artists Emily Gobeille and Theodore Watson, were part of an interactive installation Biome at The Riviera gallery in Brooklyn.

Other exhibitions span the globe, including The Meta Perspective in Mexico City, The Evolution of Psychepolymereganics in Portland and Istanbul's Grey Area. She will have two new shows later this year. First, in August Dittmar will show at Alphonse Berber Gallery in Berkeley. In December, the SF MoMA gallery in Fort Mason will exhibit her work.

Selected works sell from NYC's Jonathan Levine gallery, and you can check out larger images after the jump and see more in the gallery below.

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