In Conversation with Meredith DittmarJuxtapoz // Saturday, 05 Jun 2010
Katie Zuppann: You grew up near Boston, Massachusetts in a world of pet pigs, horses, pastures, and spy games, so how does this all translate?
Meredith Dittmar: My mother always wanted horses and my parents in general were nature lovers so they wanted land and animals. I was fortunate enough to grow up on a “martini farm.” We called it a fun farm growing up but I recently heard the term martini farm and my dad loves it. (He’s into martinis – umm guess it runs in the family.) It basically means you’re messing around with growing food and having animals but you don’t make a financial living off it.
I had a pretty idyllic childhood and I didn’t grow up fast because I loved it. I played our childhood games with my sister well into high school. Our games were pretty elaborate and bad-ass. We were very athletic children. I could scale and jump off a two story building in no time flat. My childhood very literally combined these two worlds.
How did you get into working with polymer clay to create sculptures as your form of artistic expression? Did you ever attend art school?
I worked at a bead store during college and they had fimo on the counter right where I sat. I have fidgety hands so I started playing with it and I have never stopped. Even during the years I was snowboarding and barely had any possessions I still had a little portable clay studio I set up to sculpt. I went to grade school long enough ago that I took a lot of art in K through 6th grades! But no, nothing formal after that.
Colorful clay is often equated with childhood crafts; even Play-Doh comes to mind. Is it important for you and the medium of clay to be taken seriously?
That’s funny because the polymer world wants to make a push for the art world to accept it as a fine art medium. I can understand their desire for that but I think it’s already happening organically. For me it’s important to create for the sake of creating and not worry about other people’s opinions. If you make a crazy amazing piece out of PlayDoh or Legos or crayons, I’m pretty sure the viewer isn’t standing there thinking “That medium is so second grade.”
When I said I wanted the work to be taken seriously, it was more about the content that I had previously shown. I didn’t want it to just be about all the cute characters – it was important to me for the viewer to see there was something deeper going on.
You seem to be very spiritually aware and reference this in your Istanbul show. Have you always been interested in spirituality? Has any of your work and/or characters become a sort of autobiographical reflection? How does this all inform your work?
Definitely the work is an autobiographical reflection – but the things I am reflecting on are universal if anyone stops and inquires within themselves. I grew up very Catholic and from the beginning none of it made any sense to my logical brain. One sociology of religion class destroyed what little ties were left.
Ultimately no one can escape life’s major questions – what is death? Who am I? Why does suffering exist? And once you start heading down a serious path of looking into it, there’s really no turning back. You get a little taste of truth and it’s like an opening is created inside you. Always being and always becoming.
Read the full-length feature interview with Meredith Dittmar in our current June 2010 issue. It’s a good one.
In the meantime, read Meredith’s answers to our Back talk questions here.