Dalton Ghetti: Needles and Pencils

Dalton Ghetti’s miniature carved pencil tips will be on display in Outside In’s collaborative exhibition with Craftspace, ‘Radical Craft: Alternative Ways of Making’, which opens at Pallant House Gallery on 12 March 2016. The exhibition will showcase the work of thirteen international artists associated with the ‘outsider art’ genre, alongside Outside In artists who were selected through an open submission section. Outside In Communications Officer Kate Davey spoke to USA-based Dalton to ask him a few questions about his work ahead of the show.

Dalton Ghetti, Giraffe, Image courtesy of Sloan Howard

Dalton Ghetti began handling tools and learning how to carve early. Starting during his school years in Brazil, he was given a set of metal tools for children by his parents at the age of nine. With these tools, he made his own boxes, toys and go-carts, also experimenting with using knives, chisels and hammers to make sculptures. He first started his 3D career by carving large objects, but in the early 1980s, in light of talk about ‘nanotechnology’, he decided to set himself a challenge and make the smallest thing he could with the naked eye and human hand. He first carved the wooden part of pencils, before moving on to carving the graphite as well, and now he predominantly focuses solely on the graphite.

Dalton’s subject matter comes from his everyday life; things that are related to him or his life, events, or something he might have seen going about his day to day business that really inspired him. He’ll create sketches first of all, before carving into the graphite end of the pencil. Usually he does this with a sewing needle and a triangular razor blade, but he has also created his own tools, including oval and straight edge chisels fashioned from sewing needles. He holds the pencil in his hand under a strong light source (usually a table lamp or sunlight), removing only tiny specks of graphite at a time.


Dalton Ghetti, Hanging Heart, Image courtesy of Sloan Howard

Taking months, or even years to complete, Dalton can only work on a piece for an hour to an hour and a half at a time. After this, he will take a break – sometimes for a day, sometimes for a week. There have been times when he has had the time and availability, but hasn’t felt inspired to carve, and he doesn’t force himself to.

When he first starting showing his work to his friends, they spoke about how much money Dalton could make from selling it, but for him, it isn’t – and never has been – about the money. For Dalton, it’s about the art, meditation, and inspiration, and because of this, he doesn’t sell his work or accept commissions. Dalton doesn’t like the pressure that comes with having to produce something within a concrete amount of time, and he feels that issues around money change things. He creates for himself and not for anyone else.


Dalton Ghetti, Hollow Vase, Image courtesy of Sloan Howard

Although he doesn’t sell his work, he does lend it to museums; something he started doing about fifteen years ago. However, before he would consider his work becoming public-facing, he was keen to source a way to display it that worked for him and the art. Once he had a solution, he was more than happy to start sharing his creations with the world. He says that the relationship he has with various museums and galleries works for both them and him: they get to exhibit his work – which they are very keen to do – and he doesn’t have to sell it. To make money, he works as a carpenter, and he is more than happy with this.

Over the past fifteen years or so, Dalton has enjoyed working with a whole range of museums, galleries and organisations. These have included the Lockwood Matthews Mansion Museum in Connecticut, where he designed and installed an exhibition of his work, as well as other museums and galleries local to where he lives. The New Britain Museum of American Art has had some of Dalton’s work for about six or seven years, and Dalton finds them very supportive of his creative practice. Outside of America, he has exhibited in Hong Kong, Paris, and at the V&A in London.

Boot - Copy

Dalton Ghetti, Boot, Image courtesy of Sloan Howard

Outside In’s fourth triennial open art exhibition will showcase work by historically renowned and invited contemporary artists associated with outsider art alongside UK artists who see themselves as facing barriers to the art world for reasons including health, disability, social circumstance or isolation.

With a focus on craft, and curated in collaboration with national craft organisation Craftspace, work drawn from across three continents will reveal and inventive use of materials in a variety of scale

The exhibition will launch at Pallant House Gallery from 12 March – 12 June 2016, marking Outside In’s tenth anniversary, before touring nationally. For more information, please click here.

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  1. Tanya Wood

    I love Dalton’s work and very much look forward to seeing it ‘in the flesh’ at Pallant House in March. Tanya Wood

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