Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bill Dunlap

Bill Dunlap has shown his art in many galleries and art centers across the country. He was a Spring 2006 Fellow and Artist-in-Residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a painter, sculptor, illustrator, cartoonist living in a small town in Western Maryland called Cumberland. I moved here about six months ago. Before that, I lived in San Francisco for 15 years, and I still manage to go back there every few months.

Tell us about your recent artwork.
I’m working with cheaper, more ephemeral material these days, like butcher paper, sticks, string, and cardboard. I’m working on things large and small at the same time. The big one I’m working on right now is a 6ft tall and 25ft long mural on paper.

Have you exhibited your work?
I have, and I think I still enjoy it, but showing art can get to be a bit of a drag. There is a formula to getting shows, hanging them, opening receptions, then taking down the work that can get to be quite depressing. I’ve had over 50 group and solo shows over the past five years. I often tell myself that I should stop showing my art and just build my own private world on my property, kinda like Howard Finster did, but I guess I’m not ready yet.

Can you describe the environment and atmosphere you work in for us? Do you generally work alone or with people? Is it quiet or do you play music?
I generally work alone, and I work in various places around my house. I have a large-ish basement studio where I do most of my painting, but I will start drawing or building things with paper, string, cardboard, etc. almost anywhere. I also work in the woods outdoors making large stone and stick-pile sculptures. I prefer to work in quiet outdoors, just listening to the wind in the trees, but often the barking dogs drive me inside the house. There, I generally listen to music, most often classical.

What interests do you have other than art?
Some would include: nature, quiet, meditation, vegetarianism, veganism, animals, exercise, saxophone, flute, Shakespeare, history, poetry, literature, book collecting, listening to classical music, hiking, biking, philosophy, wood work, simplifying my life.

Have you collaborated w/ other artists in the past?
Not as much as I would like. People are very busy and it’s hard to find like-minded people near by. I enjoy collaborating with dead artists. I often take text from writers and images from old paintings and incorporate them in my own work.

Who and what are your influences?
Who: Mostly outsiders of one stripe or another. Among artists, that would be primitive peoples, developmentally disabled, children, visionaries (of the non-religious variety preferably), and the mentally ill (Artaud writing in his madness, for example).
What: Nature, quiet, animals

Looking back, how has your style changed?
I don’t know. I just keep trying to get at something, something elemental powerful complex hilarious stupid simple disturbing calming, etc. Lately, I’ve been working on (and dreaming of) much larger things.

Have you had any other careers? How have these influenced your career as an artist?
I worked for years as a graphic designer/web designer and co-founded an award-winning web development company in San Francisco called Terrascope. I did work for big clients like Travelocity, USAToday, Rand McNally, and US Bank. Luckily, the whole miserable thing imploded before I succeeded at drinking myself to death. What influence did this have? I realized I can’t hold a job or sit in long meetings. So what else is there but to become an artist?
Do you plan each of your pieces in detail beforehand or do they evolve as you create them?

A little of both, but the real driving force of creating, for me, is the totally unplanned spontaneous intuitive coming out that happens somewhere along the line. Every “art thing” I do has to have a lot of that in it.

People in your field whom you most admire:
This is a hard one to answer. I think I should stick with people I know personally, since I know their personalities and to some extent their intentions as artists. For me, the personality and the intent of the artist is intimately involved in the art work itself. Let’s face it, everyone has the potential to be creative and probably 90% of becoming an “art star” is determined by the amount of hustling done by the artist, so if you are an asshole as an artist I really won’t have much interest in your work. Some of the sincerest people I know following their own voices are Stephen Tompkins, Jake Watling, MariNaomi, Peter Kohler, Sean Samoheyl.

What are your most and least two favorite films?
Two of my favorites might be Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice (although I haven’t seen it in more than 10 years) and The Third Man, or maybe La Dolce Vita, or maybe something by Kurosawa or Bresson. I’ve not seen a Hollywood blockbuster all-star cast type of movie since I was maybe 12 years old. I suppose something like that might be my least favorite film.

What are you reading right now?
I really like reading Shakespeare. Currently, I’m reading/re-reading Richard III. I’m also reading a pretty good book about semiotics in the visual arts. It’s called Visible Signs by David Crow. I also randomly poke into these to get provocative quotes: Joseph Beuys In America, and an Antonin Artaud anthology I have. Here’s a random quote from Artaud: “I hunger less for food than for some kind of elementary consciousness.”

Favorite music:
Some of my favorite songs are by Bob Dylan, and a lot from old time Appalachian singers like Roscoe Holcomb, Dock Boggs, and Bascom Lunsford. But lately I’ve been listening mostly to 20th Century classical music, with my favorites being Lutoslawski, Pendereki, Bartok, Berg, Schoenberg, and Webern.

Favorite comic strips/ comic books:
Even though my work has a lot of cartoony looking imagery, I’m not really a big fan of traditional comics or cartoons. However, I have been influenced a lot by Little Nemo in Slumberland and Lyonel Feininger’s comics from the early 1900’s. Among contemporary comics, I think Matt Brinkman’s stuff is, at times, pure genius.

Last concert/performance attended:
The most recent performance I saw was Bob Marsh performing as Mr. Mercury at an art opening I had at Receiver Gallery in San Francisco. Bob’s a genius, too (just like Brinkman in my previous answer) except that I know Bob. Which means I can follow him around town and bug him with thousands of questions. You can hear and see more of him here:

Bill Dunlap's Website: