Dorothy Graden, an artist living in Valparaiso, Ind., tours the Midwest and other parts of the world showcasing her art and her love for history and nature.
She is inspired by petroglyphs and pictographs that she finds on hikes and camping trips through the American south and west. She has visited prehistoric rock art sites that date back 30,000 years.
Ms. Graden uses a process called papermaking for her art. The process starts with pigmenting paper and adding cotton rags over the layers to give it a texture that resembles canyon walls. Then, when it’s dry, she presses it, and adds more color to it with ink and pastels. The finished product is, she says, her own interpretation of prehistoric rock art.
Her exhibit “Liminal Spaces” will be on display through July 11 at the Evanston Art Center, 1717 Central St.
In her exhibit, Ms. Graden attempts to give her viewers a closer and more personal experience with the ancient art in which she bases her work. She says liminal spaces are “where the dimensions meet and when you go through the ‘veil’ you enter a different world, whether it be time or place or no time nor place.”
She tries to relate the art in her exhibit to these liminal spaces. This helped her come up with the name of the exhibit, along with her love for history and spirituality. “I named my show because when I’m at petroglyph sites I feel like I’m in the past and present at the same time and the walls that the rock art is on are layered multidimensional places where, because they are liminal spaces, one can travel back through the time of the ancients.”
Ms. Graden told the RoundTable that she wants her followers to feel how she does when she finds rock art. “I can hear the hunters coming home, I can hear the children playing around.” To her, there is a more spiritual connection to history in her art.
Ms. Graden speaks about certain symbols and shapes in the “Liminal Spaces” exhibit that have held a deeper meaning for centuries, some of which are lost or have changed from their original meaning. “Think about playing telephone for 2,000 years. Things change.”
The opening exhibit was followed by an artist talk in the lobby of the Evanston Art Center. Ms. Graden showed images from the exhibit, other projects, and pieces she has worked on, and photographs that display her inspiration. The talk was an hour in length in front of a crowd of 10 individuals.
A symbol that she mentions throughout her artist lecture is the thunderbird, which symbolizes power in early civilizations across the Americas. During her hikes, she comes across this symbol a lot in caves and tries to add in her interpretations of it in her artwork. The higher up a mountain one goes, the more images of birds one finds. This is because, she says, they are from a higher part of the world. Ms. Graden tries to incorporate these images in the work she displays in this exhibit.
The drawing above is featured in the Liminal Spaces exhibit. The piece is called the dance, and is based on a petroglyph that Ms. Graden photographed on one of her cave visits. The drawing was made in 2016 with India ink on paper. Through her interpretation of the original cave art, Ms. Graden sees animals dancing. The pieces in this exhibit are paintings and drawings that are lathered with colors of all kinds.
Ms. Graden also tries to spread awareness about trespassing on and/or vandalizing private rock art sites through her exhibits. Many sites are becoming state parks or privately owned in order to prevent the destruction of these prehistoric art pieces. Ms. Graden says that though this is a step in the right direction, much more work has to be done to protect them.
Ms. Graden has displayed her artwork at the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow, the University College Cork, Ireland, and at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Some of her photographs have been featured in the Theosophical Society’s journal, Quest.