Sunday, February 1, 2015

Interview with Don Dougan

Verdigris Dream: Don Dougan

VERDIGRIS DREAM: TWO NATURES (detail view) showing canvas, plaster, copper leaf, verdigris patina, crab claw, glass,     paint,     30"x 12½"x 4" overall,     2014

1. Who are you and what do you do, and what is your background?
I am a sculptor and I make things that I can touch.
Ever since I was young I have made things -- whether it was modeling dinosaurs in clay or taking scraps of wood from my father's workshop and assembling them to make toy boats to float in the creek. I collected rocks and fossils, sea shells, bits of broken glass and pebbles, always looking at the forms and materials and imagining how they came to be.
Both of my grandfathers were architects and painters, and encouraged my artistic efforts, as did my parents. Everyone in the family was a reader and I was surrounded by books of many types, and I found many treasures in them. I learned to use woodworking tools with purpose from my father (an engineer) and to experiment in different approaches from my mother (always sewing, making mosaics, or painting).
High school was a trial; the only saving grace was my art teacher who gave me a chunk of soapstone to carve. It was my first step to become a carver. In college (Atlanta School of Art) I learned to teach myself the basics of stonecarving (none of the school’s faculty at the time knew how to work stone), and I first met my life's companion and love, Mary Anne Channell (a printmaker with a piercing intellect and giant heart). 
I became conversant with many techniques of making art in school, and though I majored in sculpture it was the carving process and stone as the material which drew me the most.
The immediacy of seeing the form take shape as the flakes fly was -- and still is -- a never-ending sense of marvel and discovery.

2. What's integral to your art and or art career?
The ability to use tools: the feel of the tools in my hands, the feel of the surfaces and

     stretched primed canvas, plaster, ceramic, copper leaf, verdigris patina,
     crab claw, hardware-cloth, glass, paint
     30"x 12½"x 4"

textures of the materials, and the interplay of all the materials' characteristics with each other to provide a sense of narrative and history. Also integral is the process of discovery of how to evoke meaning through those juxtapositions, and tell a story without words.

3. What themes do you pursue and what medium do you use?
I pursue the exploration of meaning and perception, what it means to be human. I seek social and cultural universals through the filter of an inward-looking individual. This means following wherever my nose leads me. I use my intuition to both put things together and to take things away until what material forms remain serve to reveal some aspect of truth which I had not realized before.
I consider my medium to be sculpture (and material in general). Though I am a carver by nature I will use whatever material process seems to be called-for in a particular work. For me stone is both plentiful and the essence of matter, so it usually figures in my work. However, I find that by mixing other media with stone it allows me a greater clarity of expression through the contrasts of the materials’ respective natures and their forms. Found objects and ‘mixed media’ are almost as pervasive as stone in my work.

4. What makes you angry, what makes you happy?
What makes me angry are people who deny the joy of life out of petty greed or intolerance. What makes me happy is to be enjoying life with meaning.

5. Who and what inspire you in your work and or in your life in general?
I am inspired by the sublime introspective essence of Constantin Brancusi and Joseph Cornell, by the sophistication of Isamu Noguchi and Fred Astaire, by the image-play of René Magritte and the Fleischer Brothers, by the down-to-earth stories of Kurt Vonnegut and Loren Eiseley, by the mythic poses of Igor Mitoraj, by the tragedy of Bix Beiderbecke and Orson Welles, by the voices of Billie Holiday and Imelda May, by the scope of Larry Niven and Freeman Dyson, by the gritty future of William Gibson and the gritty past of Giovanni Piranesi, by the madness of Richard Dadd and Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, by the dancing music of Erik Satie and the sideways humor of Gary Larsen, by the ingenuity of toolmakers past and present, by the spit on the sidewalk picked-up by Harpo Marx, by the Miss Marple of Joan Hickson and the sad dexterity of Buster Keaton, by the wild transformations of Richard Penniman, by the telling lyrics of Chuck Berry, Hank Williams, and Johnny Mercer, by the opening of the mouth and twinkling of an eye, by the mysterious glory of ancient Egypt and the mischievous humor of the Etruscans, by the haiku of netsuke, by the chipmunks in my rock-pile and the hawk which sometimes catches them, by all the fresh eyes (and fresh ideas) of my students . . . perhaps the question would be easier to answer if it were what I was not inspired by.    

6. What superpower would you want?
What superpower don't I already have -- an artist has 'em all, don't they?  It is just about deciding which power to use when . . . <grin>

     green slate, glass, Georgia foliated talc, North Carolina jade, jade,
     Vermont radio black marble, bloodstone, copper, aluminum, brass, silver leaf
     36¼"x 11¾"x 2½"

     Alaskan rock, Italian travertine & serpentine, Rosso Levanto, Giallo di
     Siena, Rosso Orobico Arabescato, Colorado Yule, Tennessee Imperial
     black marbles, steel found object, deerhide, burnt wood
     40"x 40"x 17"

7. What is your favorite artist and/or other person?
It changes every day depending upon who I happen to meet or what I happen to see. Today I would have to say Seana Reilly, Françoise Pompon, Dan Henderson, and Glenn Dasher.

8. What advice would you give to other artists?
Three (or four) things:

"Process saves us from the poverty of our ideas."
                   ~ Anonymous quote, shared by Glenn Dasher in 2010

"It’s our process that saves us from the poverty of our intent."       
                   ~ Elizabeth King

"Art is a lie that makes us realize truth -- at least the truth that is given us to understand."       
                   ~ Picasso

"To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it."
                   ~ Kurt Vonnegut

     Brazilian rosewood, Indiana limestone, acrylic
     20"x 23"x 3½"

9. Contact details:

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