Interview: Teresa Dunn
Luca Curci talks with Teresa Dunn during THE BODY LANGUAGE 2020 at Palazzo Ca’ Zanardi.
Teresa Dunn received her MFA from Indiana University Bloomington in 2002. She is a three-time recipient of the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Fellowship and received the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship from the US Department of Education. Dunn is represented by First Street Gallery in NYC and Galerie l’Échaudé in Paris, France. Recent solo exhibitions include “Cover the Waterfront” at the University Maine Museum of Art in Bangor, 2020; “a woman | an island | the moon” at First Street Gallery in New York, 2019; “M o t h e r l o a d” at the Visual Arts Center at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls, SD in 2017 and First Street Gallery in NYC and Miami University of Ohio in 2016, and “Ebb and Ember” at Hooks-Epstein Galleries in 2015. Dunn’s 2012 exhibition “Strange realities/Étrange réalité” at Galerie l’Échaudé was reviewed in French journals AZART and Miroir de l’Art. Dunn was a finalist in the 2000 William and Dorothy Yeck Miami University Young Painters Competition and won Best in Show at the 2008 Biennial of Contemporary Realism at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is included in publications including Studio Visits and Paint Pulse Magazine. Dunn participated in the Cuttyhunk Island Artist Residency 2017 and Vermont Studio Center in 2007. She has conducted many artist lectures including at the 2017 Rome Art Program in Italy. Dunn is an Associate Professor of Painting and Drawing at Michigan State University in East Lansing where she has taught since 2006. Teresa Dunn is a Mexican American artist raised in rural Southern Illinois. Her identity, life, and art is poetically influenced by being suspended between two cultural heritages. Gloria Anzaldúa’s “Borderlands” accurately reflects Dunn’s own reconciliation of her mexicanismo with her American-ness and the complexities of growing up and living as a multicultural woman in the Midwest.
Luca Curci – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
Teresa Dunn – I grew up in a rural small town in Southern, Illinois USA. My mother is Mexican and father is American. The combination of cultural heritages defines much of who I am and has had a great deal of influence on my life and artwork. The most significant artistic experience to influence my work was traveling to Florence and Venice at age 25 to see Ghirlandaio, Pontormo, Bellini, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, and otherS from the Italian Renaissance and Baroque.
LC – What is art for you?
TD – Simply put, it is visual poetry. To dig a little deeper, my own art is a love of paint, surface, color, light, and pattern that invite me to observe the world around me and imagine interpretations of experiences, relationships, and the depths of the human condition. Looking at other people’s art is a portal into other dimensions, allows me to travel through time, and wonder about the complexity of painting and existence.
LC – What is your creative process like?
TD – I keep sketchbooks and photos as records of things that intrigue me. I also collect interesting objects, fabrics, and toys. These images and props filter into ideas for paintings, sometimes I have a very specific idea of what I want to paint. Other times I follow an impulse of a fleeting visual. Much of my work is based in direct observation however I am fascinated by the absurd, the elusive, and the contradictory. So my narratives tend to sit in spaces that feel more like magical realism instead of depicting reality. Practically I go to my studio on days I don’t teach. I start at 9 and work until I have to get my daughter from school. I see the daily practice of painting as critical to my process.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
TD – In general I explore questions of identity, relationships, and the human condition. My home, friends and family, and observation of life experiences play a big role in my paintings. Though to be clear, my works are not autobiographical, but instead my own story and others’ stories act as a springboard for my narratives. Recently I am also fascinated with the tondo. The simple shape of the circle provides so many possibilities in symbolism and metaphor that many interesting paintings emerge from that. The circle is a window, an egg, a ring, a cup, and an island. The circle is open and closed, full and empty, something and nothing. I love the tension embedded in that and how it manifests through objects, abstraction, and storytelling.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
TD – I am lucky to be an artist who teaches, so my professional work supports my creative practice. I am surrounded by young aspiring artists who are full of energy, curiosity, and ambition. Spending my days in my personal studio, support and are complemented by days teaching students about drawing and painting. It is a wonderful balance that keeps me engaged.
LC – We were attracted by your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the festival or as a part of preexisting works?
TD – One portrait was made 11 years ago and the second portrait was made just a couple months ago. Both fit the theme extremely well.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the festival’s theme?
TD – The current painting was not made for the exhibition theme, but the idea of the body, the masquerade, and questions of identity were perfectly suited for the show.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
TD – I like the idea of promotion of exhibiting artists in international contexts, which is why I applied. Your group could facilitate meaningful connections in the art world beyond the show. That would be highly attractive to many artists.
LC – What are your suggestions about our services? Is there something more we can provide to artists?
TD – Perhaps the organization could be a conduit for connecting artists to non-profit spaces, museums, commercial galleries, collectors, and critics.