“Patterns of Nature”: Claudia Kleefeld at Woman Made Gallery

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"diary of dead bones 1. Word Spiral written in reverse" 22-1/2x30 inches. Conte on paper, 2010

Well known for her longtime engagement with the representation of the female figure, renowned artist, Claudia Kleefeld is presenting a new body of work for her upcoming solo exhibition at Woman Made Gallery. While her connection to the body and the human condition remains, for her works in “Patterns of Nature: The Spiral and Interconnectedness,” the artist incorporates the natural world into both her content and her formal investigations; employing a wide range of aesthetic and conceptual strategies, Kleefeld illustrates an admirable commitment to comprehensive exploration of her subject matter.

With these works, Kleefeld manages to speak to her viewers on a universal, metaphorical level, as well as a deeply personal level. Depictions of the spiral reoccur in Kleefeld’s paintings, drawings and sculpture, from images of violent weather –tornadoes and cyclones—to the spiraling forms found in the human word and the animal kingdom. However, Kleefeld’s exploration is not limited to the representational; in works like unspoken time and diary of dead bones 1. Word spiral written in reverse, the artist’s winding form is composed of handwritten words and gestural lines, bringing both her hand and her voice to the forefront.

The most unique piece in this exhibition, the artist’s only sculptural work for Patterns of Nature, is the ubiquitous spiral, manifested through a floor-to-ceiling stack of found books from the artist’s own inspirational collection. Here, the artist literally offers viewers the opportunity to gaze upon the nuts-and-bolts of an element of her creative process. Book titles like, The Druid King and Morning Song inform us of her spiritual interests, as titles such as, The Six Wives of Henry VIII reinforce the humanity and complex sexuality underlying much of the artist’s practice.

“Book Spiral” Books, Floor to ceiling. 8’ (site specific), 2011-12

The most apparent example of the universal and the personal qualities within this body of work comes into play in Kleefeld’s diary of dead bones 7. Fingertips in which a hand-drawn, enlarged fingerprint is complemented by words in the artist’s handwriting: “Spiral Patterned Fingertips/unique impact lines/in both directions/imprint each other/and change the world.” In this drawing, Kleefeld moves from factual language, pointing out the individualizing nature of the fingertip, to the spiral as a catalyst for duality. The meaning of the fingerprint in this work has indeed gone from a universal notion, into the personal, and out again, as the metaphorical fingerprint commences with the potential to “change the world.”

Works in this exhibition range from rather scientifically rendered studies, to abstractions, to enigmatic narrative landscapes, all illustrating the spiral as a formal and conceptual trope, and also illustrating the artist’s range. If viewers can walk away from the exhibition knowing one thing about Kleefeld and her artistic process, it’s that her ability to explore a topic so thoroughly through different media, subject, palette and aesthetic is a testament to her intellectual and emotional curiosity. This is not to say that viewers will develop a singular, concrete read of Kleefeld’s content; the artist’s practice is all about “questions,” and even as viewers investigate these works, looking for answers, they will inevitably find themselves uncovering new layers of deeper questioning.

“diary of dead bones 7. Fingertips” Conte on paper. 22-3/4 x 15-1/4 inches, 2010

Artist’s Talk

To further explore the historical and hermetical concepts contained in this show and in its content, the public is welcome to attend an Artist’s Talk scheduled for March 4th from 1:00-3:00 pm at Woman Made Gallery. The artist will discuss her historical, aesthetical and intellectual relationship to the “spiral” form present in the works in this exhibition.


“Patterns of Nature: The Spiral and Interconnectedness” is on view at Woman Made Gallery March 2 through April 26, 2012. Woman Made Gallery is located at 685 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago.