Valentine DeWald is a Redmond, Washington-based artist currently concentrating in mezzotint printmaking. During the years between 2000 until 2006, he was a Resident Ceramic Artist renting studio space at Kirkland Arts Center and creating ceramic sculpture. He has always been drawn to the shapes and patterns found in nature, man-made objects of antiquity and things only found in the dark imaginations of creative dreamers. His goal is to combine these forms into substances never before seen. He wanted to create something that will astonish and attract, and at the same time repulse and repel.
Mr. DeWald’s ceramic experience started with the wheel, but I soon lost interest in the machine as a tool and the limited roundness of every shape. He started carving on pieces and then worked into hand-building. From there his shapes went from utilitarian to fantasy. He began to start to think about anthropology (his minor in college), and archaeology and things that sit in the dirt for hundreds of years and then are dug up again. The pieces began to take on the appearance of ancient weapons and translated to ideas like land mines and water mines. After a few years of this, natural forms began to creep into the work, and they became a combination of both manmade and nature. After a few more years, the manmade portion began to lose out to the natural forms, until the most recent pieces which are all natural forms and patterns.
His rate of work slowed down in the number of works he did each year, as most of the latest ones take anywhere from six to ten months to finish. He worked slowly and struggled to keep the clay leather-hard in Styrofoam containers, so that he could continue to carve and attach parts and pieces for the remaining months. He used to feel very limited in the glazes that were available, and it was not until a local instructor told him that glazes were “overrated” that he decided to try using “room temperature glazes.” These can be anything ranging from paint, to natural materials that rust over time, to whatever is out there. There is no limit. He wanted his work to have a monochromatic leather look so that the forms and details could be seen without the distraction of shiny colored glazes. He chose to use a 4 coats of low fire black under glaze; then three or four coats of an art wax called Dorland’s Wax Medium. He wanted to make them to seem highly fantastic, realistic, appealing and threatening all at the same time. He tried to make his work attract a person from across the room and then repulse them when they got too close. He wanted them to feel like this thing is just dormant and could wake up at any time, so be careful!
During the process of preconception, he often times mulled his ideas over repeatedly without drawing them out before he worked on the barest of slip cast shapes; then adding slabs to the construction and connections. He then delved into the secondary forms and continued molding the understructure. The folds, cracks and crevices were the next to work themselves out, and finally the skin or surface remained to be smoothed and carved into a great amount of detail. When the final anatomy was complete, he compelled the surface to become leathery and morbidly alive through the use of minimal underglaze, color and waxes. The elaborate shapes, meticulous textures and unsubstantial color are certainly enough to hold the piece together, without the distraction of traditional glazes and treatments.