Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Bill Dunlap - Interview

Interview #5

Full Name - Bill Dunlap
Location - Cumberland, Maryland and New York City

How did you get started doing art?
There seem to be so many ways of answering this, maybe thinking about how I’ve been interested in creativity since I was very young or maybe thinking about how I finally started getting productive as an artist only a few years ago. If it’s the latter, I’d say there was one motivating factor for that: booze, and I mean no booze at all. For about 25 years I was drunk nearly every day and that has a way of distracting your focus. I called it quits, cold turkey, in San Francisco a few years ago, and have not had (or desired) a sip since. Now I live like a monk in some sort of self-made art monastery. I run between 6 and 12 miles every other day, don’t drink, don’t smoke, and try to stay totally vegan. Basically, if I’m awake, I’m working on art one way or another, thinking about it or making it. I wasted a lot of time, and now I’m happy to be focused.

Describe your process.
I’d say I’m sort of anti-process, an anarchy process. I really try to stay sort of loose and uncommitted to things creatively. I like to think that then anything can reveal its creative potential to me. Ideas for things then come to me suddenly: string, newspapers, expanding foam insulation, cardboard, tape, sticks, dirt, pieces of furniture. I’ve used all of those to investigate ideas of one sort or another. Maybe they are not all equally interesting, but I feel the need to work something out with the material.

Tools of the trade? Favorite medium?
Well, after having said above that I try work with whatever I have before me, still there are certain things I consistently return to: wood, watercolor, acrylic, paper, canvas, drawing.

How would you explain your art or categorize it?
I like to tell myself that what I’m doing isn’t art at all. Art seems to me to be a business with a bunch of theoretical and historical baggage attached to it. I like to fool myself that I operate outside that stuff entirely. What I do may look like art, but it’s really just a sort of personal journey, a primarily therapeutic process consisting of experimentation, research, spontaneity, fun. Maybe this is similar to the way that “civilized” cultures look at the artifacts of “primitive” cultures and call these artifacts “art”. That may be a complete misunderstanding of what is happening in the “primitive” culture. But usually I don’t have the energy to explain in that way, so I just say that I make contemporary art.

What products, prints, books etc do you have coming out this year or are out?
I have work featured in the current issues of Hot and Cold and Apenest. Apenest is also making a series of limited edition prints of three of my paintings. I have work coming out in a fancy book called The Atlas of Illustration, designed by a firm in Barcelona for a publisher in Singapore, featuring illustrator/artists from around the world. I also have an artist profile coming up in Juxtapoz, but I don’t know what issue it will be in. And I’ve been selling a few of my handmade books and t-shirts with images of my art.

What inspires you?
Nature, quiet, and almost anything genuine and thoughtful. Media-saturated environments filled with noise and junk really make me sort of nauseous and dead-feeling. Things near to monasticism inspire me. I found this quote from Miro: “Be very disciplined about work, but also spend hours and hours in meditation and contemplation, the food of the soul.”

Any words of wisdom for young artists?
A life of creativity will choose you, you should not choose it. Actually, you should try to avoid art as your life’s commitment. But if you cannot avoid it, you will be stuck with it, and eventually you will figure out ways to survive financially.

What is one thing every artist should do in your opinion to become a better artist?
Free themselves and their thinking, in every sense. In actual practice this requires quite a strong will and a bit of bravery.

What is your favorite piece of art work that you wished you had done?
I admire the tremendous energy and total lack of interest in art markets that Simon Rodia demonstrated in building the Watts Towers. Soon I hope to have some land where I can work on my own large-scale environment.

Favorite band(s)?
In the past few years, it seems that I mostly bounce around in four or five areas musically.
Classical: Bach, Telemann, Vivaldi, Mozart, Brahms, Bartok, Lutoslawski
Old-time Appalachian folk: Roscoe Holcomb, Tom Ashley, Dock Boggs
Punk: Minutemen
Experimental: Jack Wright, Bob Marsh, Evan Parker, Peter Brotzmann, Captain Beefheart
Early Bob Dylan: Bringing It All Back Home, Basement Tapes, Bootleg Series Vol. 2

Favorite artist(s)?
Countless, really, but some recent obsessions have been forms in nature (sticks, plant parts, insects, etc.), August Walla, John Patrick McKenzie, Papua New Guinea mask makers, shamanic imagery, H. C. Westermann, Gladys Nilsson. Paul Klee is probably my most enduring favorite.

Favorite thing to do when you aren't doing art?
Jogging, walking, being in nature, being with Nancy, being with my cats, being quiet, reading, making music, listening to music, eating healthy, meditating.

Favorite books, magazines, blogs....?
I have lots of favorite books, but I think my favorite novel about art is Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth. I think it’s one of the best novels of the 20th century, and really funny. I try to re-read it every few years.

What do you have coming up, projects, shows, etc?
I’m currently a full-time forestry student so I’m really just doing art for myself these days. However, new work is starting to pile up and I am in the early stages of planning two shows (either solo or two-person) for a gallery in LA and one in NYC.

Thanks Bill!


Raoul Weiller said...

Loved the interview, some good advice. thanks, Thinkmule!

Raoul Weiller

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