In these galleries I am including oil paintings, mixed media drawings, figure drawings, collages, collage-drawings and collage-paintings made with fragments of my own destroyed and re-purposed artwork. There are abstractions, figurative work and many hybrids of the two.

I'm against the stigmatization of people and things that do not fall into definite, resolved categories. I'm convinced that each of us is multiple and that learning to work with and not against that fluctuating multiplicity is our most important resource and source of life. I've been told that artists must each have one clear, recognizable style. The best I can offer is a clear project.

As a teenager, making intricate realist and surrealist art, I had a realization that my hand was, as I experienced it, a slave to the spirit of copying and accuracy. I disagreed with the kind of precise executing tool that my hand had trained itself to be. I disagreed that the value of art was reproducing anything, either "outside" or "inside."

This was the beginning of a process I'm still engaged in, of trying to investigate, philosophically and practically, what making art can be and of learning to observe and make art as kinds of thinking.

In art school I began to explore abstraction -- playing with composition, perception and with ways for the hand to have its say. But this play was never pure -- figures and spaces were constantly flitting through, offering me choices as part of the process of discovering what a picture was about. There is so much humor and potential for clowning between figuration and abstraction! A picture is finished wherever it happens to land on this fluid set of continua.

In 1985 I collaborated in a large conceptual project (gallery installations, performance and book) at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (Man and Trout: the Manners Project, by a 5-person group headed by Robert C. Peters). For me, this was intensive, extended training in discovering and manipulating kinds of juxtaposition and "breaks."

The realization that breaks and juxtapositions were essential to both the value of making and of experiencing art continued as I increasingly used collage to explore interconnections between formal sensibilities and what is figurative and even "namable."

My hand was still present in most of the collage materials; particularly useful is combining painting and drawing with fragments of my own work. When an image or picture is destroyed, the specifics of each piece begin to vibrate with possibilities for making new formal and informational connections. Collage is about so much more than the absurdity and revolt the dadaists claimed. It is thinking. It is spectacularly generous. What better training for life can we have than deliberately engaging in bricolage, over and over?

I see collage as an abundantly supplied, humor-filled laboratory for exploring perceptual, philosophical, and psychological multiplicity as well as serendipity, blunders, quirks, and experiments, successful and failed, to try to get a sense of what range of diversity can coexist, with what consequences.

People ask me how anthropology influenced my art. It's very much the other way around; I began making art decades before studying anthropology. Making visual images has always been my teacher in approaching writing and thinking. In my PhD work, book and articles I engage in the same active questioning of the coherence of human beings and of the time they live and create in, on the assumption that at our best we are not continuous.

We, like the pictures, have breaks and disjunctions, our time has breaks, and conceiving of ourselves otherwise, no matter how familiar, habitual, widespread and traditional those conceptions are, leads to cruelty and impoverished results.

These realizations apply also to writing fiction and nonfiction. The process must involve discovery and collaboration with the stuff of the world and the qualities of the medium. The creative "soul" and "expression" from it belong to a Romantic worldview I disagree with. Things are NOT expressions of anything that preexists "inside." They come into existence while being made.


Dale Pesmen is an artist, anthropologist, writer, educator and translator based in Chicago.

Her paintings, collages and drawings are in many private collections in the U.S. and Europe. Between 1984 and the present she has exhibited paintings and collages in 15 one-woman exhibits, juried and group shows and has collaborated on a conceptual book, museum installation and multimedia performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Six of her paintings and drawings are featured on book covers.

From 2016 to the present she has been conducting ethnography/writing workshops at the University of Alberta, Edmonton Summer Fieldschool for Ethnographic Sensibility in Belgrade, Serbia. From 2000 to the present, Dale runs occasional visual art and writing workshops in Chicago and other cities and participated in theatrical projects.

After receiving a B.A. (Honors) at The University of Chicago (Art and Design), Dale earned her M.A. and PhD (with distinction) from The University of Chicago Department of Anthropology.  Her book, Russia and Soul: an Exploration, is based on research and early-1990s residence in a Siberian city (see "anthropology" page).  Between 1991 and the present Dale has authored over twenty articles and reviews in edited volumes, including in Tropology: The Figuration of Social Thought and Action (forthcoming),  Anthropology of the Arts: A Reader, Language, Culture and the Individual, Altering States: Ethnographies of Transition in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, and Beyond Metaphor: The Theory of Tropes in Anthropology, as well as in peer-reviewed journals, including Annual Review of Anthropology, American Anthropologist, Irish Journal of Anthropology, Journal of Anthropological Research, Slavic Review, Anthropology and Humanism, Recent Developments in Cultural Anthropology, Anthropology of East Europe Review and Encyclopedia of World Cultures.

From 1988 to the present Dale has taught customized American English Accent Coaching/advanced ESL courses privately and has taught these topics for City Colleges of Chicago (see “accent” page) and in Omsk, Siberia during her fieldwork research there.

She designed and taught a 3-tiered arts integration workshop series for college education professors, their education students and high school students, as well as numerous arts integration units in the Chicago Public Schools for Northeastern University/Arts at the Center.

Dale has given lectures, courses and papers at the University of Chicago, in the Departments of Anthropology and Slavic Studies, in the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences and at Slavic studies and anthropology conferences. She gave a 2005 Yale Anthropology Colloquium Lecture and a lecture at the National University of Ireland / UCGD as well as fourteen presentations at American Anthropological Association, American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, Central States Anthropological Association and International Conference of Europeanists annual meetings.  She has spoken and taught at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), Reed College, St Patrick's College, Maynooth, University College, Cork (Ireland) and Columbia University.

She has done numerous Russian - English literary translations of poems, plays and novels as well as many non-fiction translations (on topics from crab species to 17th-century jewelry) for private, academic and corporate clients; translated major art catalogues and contracts for museum exhibitions; done legal and business translation and management of conference and webcast interpreting services; extensive theatrical translation and interpreting (production and administration) in Russia and the U.S. and has run customized cultural consulting/intercultural communication seminars.

She has also ghost-written and edited speeches, press releases, business plans and articles on topics from culinary arts to technical fluids to New and Old Testament studies.

studio, 2000

studio, 2000