First published: Fall 2011
Dalton Ghetti works in an unconventional medium, on an almost unimaginable scale. Small wonder, then, that his creations defy easy description.
Ghetti, 50, creates unforgettable works of art on the tips of discarded pencils, some of them stubs, working on a shaft of graphite a mere 2.2 mm in diameter. Using only a razor blade and a sewing needle, with no magnification, he painstakingly sculpts objects from everyday life that are simple, clever and imaginative, all incredibly small but with exquisite detail and precision.
Working little more than an hour a day because of the strain on his eyes, Ghetti requires months, sometimes even years, to complete individual pieces.
Alphabet, simple block letters atop a line of 26 idiosyncratic pencil stubs, took more than 2 years to finish. Chain, 23 independently moving and impossibly small links, 5 cm long, connecting the top and bottom of a pencil, took almost 3 years. The elegant Giraffe, just 2.5 cm tall, took 18 months.
As a child in school in his native Brazil, Ghetti sharpened his pencils with a razor blade he carried with him. Soon, using different small tools, he carved chalk, soap, wax candles, tree bark and wood. ‘I have always been a hands-on kind of guy,’ he says, and he has liked small things in general since his family moved from Sao Paulo into the country when he was 11, where he spent a lot of time observing insects and small plants.
It was not until he arrived in the United States in 1985 at the age of 24 that he began working exclusively on pencils. Because the graphite does not have a grain, he found it has the same feel in any direction. He likens it to working with clay, though it is extremely delicate. Cemetery is an ever-expanding collection of remnants of sculptures that broke while he was working on them, each glued on the head of a pin and then stuck into a rectangle of Styrofoam.