Joan Waltemath


Joan Waltemath, born in 1953, grew up on the Great Plains where her German ancestors settled in the late 19th century. Her early experiences in nature and looking at native geometries inform her subsequent abstract paintings and guide their complex use of materials.   As her multifaceted 2 dimensional surfaces unfold in time, their spatial voids constructed of harmonic progressions emerge to facilitate an interaction with her audience and allow for a reflective response from a sustained engagement.

Waltemath holds a BFA from the RI School of Design, an MFA from Hunter College, CUNY.  She has lived and worked in New York city since 1977 and collaborated with filmmakers, musicians, and writers in collective groups and through special projects since the early days of the downtown No Wave era.  “Ok, Today, Tomorrow” a film produced out of her studio was shown at MOMA and archived in their collection as part of a recent survey of the LES 1980’s.

Shown in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Portland, San Diego, Omaha, London, Basel, Amsterdam and Cologne, her paintings and drawings are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, Yale University Art Galleries and the Harvard University Art Museum, among others. She has written extensively on art and served as an editor-at-large for the Brooklyn Rail since 2001. She taught at the IS Chanin School of Architecture of the Cooper Union from 1997 to 2010, at Princeton University and has lectured widely. She is currently the Director of MICA’s MFA program, the LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting.

M’s Crossing (1,2,3,5,8 west) 2015 -17 172” x 168 ½” Oil, lead white, marble dust, haematite, cooper iron oxide, aluminum, interference, florescent, mica and phosphorescent pigment on prepared natural and black canvas sewn from individual pieces.
right arm 2014 thread and pencil on natural and black canvas 21 3/8” x 3” left arm 2014 thread and pencil on natural and black canvas 22 ½” x 3 ¼ ”
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  1. […] Joan Waltemath is presently working on a project she began a decade ago titled Treaty of 1868, A Lament. One of the paintings in the series is currently at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The works themselves are very large, measuring around 14 or 15 feet square. In 2008 while at a residency, Waltemath realized that she didn’t know the meaning of the Treaty of 1868. Some research taught her that this 150 year old treaty granted the territory where she grew up to the Lakota, Arapaho, and Cheyenne. Waltemath entered into each piece in the resulting series without really knowing where the work would take her. Waltemath developed a gestural language to create the pieces for the series. It was her intention to capture the feeling she had during different ceremonies within the Lakota spiritual practice. The elegiac feeling of these ceremonies speaks to the decimation of the culture at the hands of encroaching white culture. Her work is complicated because Waltemath herself is descended from homesteader great-grandparents who had a first hand role in the dispossession of territory. The work is meant to encourage the viewer to see things from multiple viewpoints. At no point is there a stable point of view, all images are informed by the viewer. Waltemath would ultimately like to exhibit all eight pieces in her Treaty of 1868 series together along with programming to coincide with the Native issues they represent. After creating these works which are made up of scraps of canvas, Waltemath found herself with quite a lot of smaller canvas scraps. She began sewing them together to create other work and found they take on a character all their own. She has shown a few of them and would like to do so again in the future. Waltemath refers to these scrap art pieces as “the outtakes” to the larger project. To hear more from Joan Waltemath about her large scale work and the complexity behind it, listen to the complete interview. […]