By Derrick White
Every morning at the college you can see him arrive. He stands six foot six and weighs two forty-five.
He’s kind of broad at the shoulder and narrow at the hip and everybody knows you give him no lip.
Move over Paul Jones, there’s a new lumberjack in town. We recently hired a new, big, bad art professor named Chance Dunlap at Tyler Junior College to protect ourselves in case of an emergency, for example, should our building ever, inexplicably collapse. We feel comfortable knowing this giant of a man would hold up beams and bricks like a colossal oak tree allowing us to scramble to safety. Of course, I’m just joking (sort of). Dunlap joins the dynamic assembly of professors and professional exhibiting artists in the vibrant and energetic art department of Tyler Junior College. He is teaching Sculpture, 3-D Design and Art Appreciation. He doesn’t say much, he’s kind of quiet and shy, and if he speaks at all, he usually just says hi. But, I thought, for your benefit I’d ask him a few questions, pick his brain, see what’s on his mind, and allow our community to get to know him a little better. As it turns out he is a considerate, conversant, and attentive artist who didn’t once try to grind my bones to make his bread.
Chance Dunlap earned his Master of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in sculpture from The University of North Texas, Denton, a BA from Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant, and an Associates Degree from Grayson County College. Currently, he spends most of his studio time working with wood and paint, but he began by creating welded steel sculptures. “I started making found object, welded pieces, before taking art classes at community college. Welding was a process I learned in high school, so after I saw some sculptures in Denison, Texas, I tried it and then never looked back,” states Chance. In graduate school at UNT Chance became dissatisfied with welding and went back to the roots of his art-making to methods from when he was a child. Chance says, “My family built thousands of rustic birdhouses using old wood or scraps from cabinet shops. I love working with wood. It is very tactile and there are lots of unique power tools that one can accumulate.”
What else is on his mind? Fishing lures! “I started a project a couple of years ago that has become a major part of my practice, in making fishing lures. I had collected old fishing lures since I was a kid, but one evening in my studio I made one. In the past two years, I have created more than 200 and combine my interests in wood carving and metalworking to create distinctive singular fishing lures that are interesting, aesthetic, and functional. I also maintain a web blog focused on homemade and folk art fishing lures, and I am under contract to author a book on alternative lure forms such as duck, bird, gopher, and other creature or critter lures,” explains the artist.
The first exhibition Chance saw in an actual art gallery was in Denison, Texas (416 Gallery). Eric McGehearty embedded books in concrete and made steel armatures that restricted books from opening (with the intention of raising awareness for learning disabilities). Chance remembers, “Before I started taking classes my perception of art and artists was based on stereotypes found in movies and television. Growing up we were encouraged to be creative but never really considered anything we did art. Looking back there are many experiences that seemed to shape where I am now as an artist. One is that my grandmother always gave us blank paper to draw. She also bought weird vibrating pens from the Avon lady. Maybe my love of power tools is embedded in these objects? My other grandmother would hang cow bones from trees around the farm to frighten trespassers. Another major impact is that my parents would drag my brothers and me all over Texas seeking flea markets and yard sales. Most of our family vacations had the ulterior motive of being in the general vicinity of a major flea market.”
When asked about what art has brought to his life, Chance answers, “The best thing is meeting my wife Bobbie at a gallery. She was showing her work and I happened to go in while she was there. We have been together ever since. Another important thing is gaining confidence in my abilities and actions by making art. I was incredibly timid and introverted for most of my young life, but once I developed a voice with objects, I really came around.”
“The most frustrating part of being an artist is the general public’s perception. I have struggled with the concept of ‘artist,’ especially using the term ‘sculptor.’ I really avoid it. I think of a sculptor as somebody, like Michelangelo, who made gloriously skillful representations. I play with materials in a serious sort of way but relate much more to carpenters or people who have their yards full of junk. I like the term ‘painter’ because often a person will just assume you paint walls or something. If I reply that I make intellectual artsy paintings, that person will put me in some category of otherness. I do not really separate being an artist from my everyday activities. When I grill a steak, wash dishes, start a campfire, or make art, I find that many of my basic creative needs are met. As a teacher I try to get students to understand art is much more than what ends up hanging on a wall,” states Chance. His work is influenced by artist Chris Martin (Brooklyn, New York painter) whom he says, “I love how Martin incorporates found objects and ephemera into his art, and is not afraid to use materials.” Dunlap also enjoys the work of Thornton Dial (Alabama, self-taught assemblage artist), and Forrest Bess (visionary Texas painter).
Chance Dunlap recently exhibited his artwork at the Amarillo Museum of Art, the Bathhouse Cultural Center in Dallas, and 500X Gallery in Dallas. His art is represented by Ro2 Art Gallery of Dallas and they recently displayed Dunlap at the Houston Contemporary Art Fair.
For more information, go to www.ro2art.com.
The Fishing Lure Blog is at chancedunlap.blogspot.com.chancedunlap.blogspot.com.
*Shout out to country music legend Jimmy Dean.