An artist and the ‘Guys’

Meredith Dittmar’s art exists in a world of its own. Literally. Her polymer sculptures, or as she calls them “my Guys,” exist in a space as shaped by graffiti and disobedience as it is by the saturated world of Saturday morning cartoons. They are at times aloof and playful, as sweet and innocent as they are bright. Since 1994 more than 10,000 Guys have come into existence with Dittmar creating a virtual society – distinctly varied and influenced. And therein lies the strength of Dittmar’s sculptures; contrasting life seems to emanate from each piece, her characters containing distinct soul.

With her current show at the new and bigger Genuine Imitation Gallery (625 N.W. Everett St., #110), Dittmar has taken the disparate graffiti influences of her work and expanded them, creating around her sculptures three-dimensional environments; bringing the palate and flow of both the graf and natural worlds to life. The Boston to PDX artist was kind of enough to open up a look into her polymer world.

Tell me a little about your process. How are your “Guys” realized? Do you have an initial idea or do you play with forms as you go along?

I usually don’t have an idea. I create a palate I’m going to work with and then I just start moving the clay until something emerges, then go from there. I like to try to think as little as possible and just let things happen. It’s interesting to see what themes emerge. I can kind of learn about myself that way. After I get something going then I do some planning to round out what I’ve got going on. My process and work style is always changing. I just try to be as present as possible and pay attention to when the flow is on and go with it!

What brought you to Portland? What do you do beyond your art?

I moved to Portland because I could work (I was a flash developer/designer) and could pursue outdoor activities as well. Prior to the move I was living in Lake Tahoe and snowboarding full-time so I thought Portland would be a place I could continue that lifestyle. Getting a full-time job though pretty much killed it! Beyond my art the things I do are continually evolving. Before I realized how much I rely on having functioning hands I did more “active” things. I broke my hand in NYC extreme walking last year and that kind of ended my three-year infatuation with that. Now I run, backpack, snowboard, travel, read, meditate and party. I’m sure in a couple years I’ll have a somewhat different list. For work I sell my characters, ‘my Guys,’ in stores and on the web and I’m working with a few people on realizing the next step for them. There are a lot of interesting options out there, and it’s a maze I’m working to understand. I’m also doing some commercial character design like creating artwork and characters with Leo-Ketel for the new Oregon Aquarium ad campaign.

Do you or have you played with media beyond the polymer clay?

I’ve drawn a bit, collaged a bit; I was really into creating interactive art in flash for years. Now I’m experimenting with writing a bit. Not graf but the actual pen & paper thing – though I do play with spray paint.

What’s most rad to you right now?

Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now,’ fizzy water, my dog Oscar, having a practice. I don’t know, lately I’ve been in a period of intense personal growth and I’ve been working pretty hard. So, damn, on paper, I’m mega boring right now!)

Is there anyone or anything that especially inspires your work?

Spirituality and my life (nature, music, peeps) I try to limit my contact with other art being made right now because my subconscious soaks it up and I have this desire to see what happens without that. Also, Love, Alex Grey, Mars-1 and too many graffiti artists to list. I’m bad at listing stuff in general. I just don’t maintain lists in my head!

Meredith Dittmar’s Guys will be at Genuine Imitation Gallery through March 31 and at