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
[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.
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.