Written by Ashley Ramirez and Lindsay Schaefer
Art: a sunrise over a mountain, a perfectly frosted cupcake or paint splattered on a toilet. To each his own.
For artist and professor Phil Dunham, his paintings and drawings stem from abstract thoughts, surrealism concepts and the unfolding of a personal story.
While his ceramics and handcrafted pieces are based on tribal influences, he ties it together by being involved with as many types of art forms as possible.
His desire to create art began at a young age.
“I was 5 years old,” Dunham said. “I was in love with my kindergarten teacher, and I made a bird out of clay. She told me I was going to be an artist and because I loved her, I believed her.”
Dunham has continued to make art since his beginning in that elementary art class. He went on to receive a Master of Arts from Stephen F. Austin State University.
“I always wanted to be able to make sure my skill level was on a growth pattern,” he said. “I thought that until the point of obsessive compulsiveness …. I was forcing it (art) to happen. Now, it just comes out.”
As a professor, he encourages his students to “just make art and not to look at all that other stuff.”
Senior art major Gail Allard took Dunham for four classes and realized that he is very philosophical.
“(He) is definitely a brilliant mind, multifaceted, thorough and driven to make sure his students have a strong foundation to make their work great,” Allard said. “When you hear him talk, it makes you think how powerful the world around us is.”
Sophomore studio art major Jasmine Knight has also learned from Dunham’s many years of experience.
“He’ll teach us the basics and makes sure everyone has a mastery of that then lets us go off on our own creative process,” she said.
He sculpted stoneware pieces and god heads and sketched graphite drawings ranging from cracked eggs in a nest to a crashed airplane captured in a jar.
Dunham also displayed his skill of using many mediums by creating four daggers, a prayer wand and a wooden tribal scepter.
Senior art major Helen Wong’s favorite piece is the “Smoke Jaguar’s Dagger,” which is created out of knapped glass, wood, ceramic and copper.
“I really like the crystal part because it looks like a treasure, especially when it is placed in the box,” she said.
In Dunham’s artist statement posted beside his work in the Arla Ray Townsend Gallery, he wrote, “Some thoughts come from the conscious, some from the subconscious. Each choice marks a time in my life. Each expression empowers me to recognize my feelings and presence with more understanding.”