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Recess meets art class in new UNG exhibit
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‘Outdoor Life’ by Didi Dunphy

When: Through Sept. 18

Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; 3-7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Bob Owens Gallery, University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega campus

How much: Free


Children aren’t the only ones who look forward to recess.

As a New York native and current Athens resident, artist Didi Dunphy brings unconventional methods to her work, which often features skateboards and digital installations alongside more traditional works of sculpture and drawing.

Her inspiration comes from the concepts of recess and “free time.” In the course of her career, Dunphy’s work has been shown at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, International Contemporary Furniture Fair, the Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art, Emory University and the Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, among others.

She received an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and currently teaches in the Digital Media Department at the University of Georgia Art School. Dunphy’s exhibit “Outdoor Life: Works by Didi Dunphy” is on display at the Bob Owens Gallery at the University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega campus.

Q: When did you realize you were going to become an artist?

A: I think that I’ve known I was going to be an artist since I was pretty young. The fun story about that is I’m from Manhattan, and I was at a party at a friend’s house. It was a very glamorous with a lot of stars and so forth, and at one point Andy Warhol came in. He had a marker and he started signing things, like a garbage can, an 18th century armoir, and he signed my arm. I was 15 and I didn’t wash it for as long as I could. I realized that art had great power and visibility and fun and personality. I think that was sort of the beginning as me thinking of myself as a professional artist.

Q: What type of art do you most enjoy creating?

A: It’s hard to say that I’m one type of artist. Overall I’m a conceptual artist. My background is in performance art. I started out as a performance artist doing different types of installations and actions. Then I became involved in different sort of performative activities; for instance, making abstract expressionist paintings, very large ones out of tie-died canvas.

I moved into sculpture after I heard a quote from Barnett Newman: “Sculpture is something you bump into when backing up to look at a painting.” It was bizarre, as it insinuated that sculpture was hard, cold to the touch, not as important as the high art of painting. I made sculpture that was padded and soft, colorful, welcoming. My inspiration is about engaging a viewer in my idea of play and whimsy and interaction and collaboration and cooperation. To give the viewer a more performative type role in their experience of art, and to engage them in my interest of politics. That is, making things that might be presumed feminine or presumed masculine but have an added feminine touch.

Q: How does the “Outdoor Life” exhibit reflect you as an artist?

A: “Outdoor Life” engages the viewer in my sense of style and taste through my sense of color and form and shape, all of which are very playful. The entire show is inspired by work I began a year ago in my first artist residency at (the Hambidge Creative Residency Program in Rabun Gap) I spent many weeks there with a fantastic cabin in the woods with a beautiful studio.

I don’t consider myself a traditional studio artist. My process is more about conceiving of an action or an idea and then whatever material or technique is appropriate for that idea. My work resulted in a number of different forms. I have drawing, photography, skateboards, sculpture, embroidery, vinyl lettering, a bunch of different types of materials and works.

Q: What is the most unique aspect of the “Outdoor Life” exhibit?

A: I think overall the most interactive work there might still be my embroiderer’s cross stitch samples of QR scans that you would normally see in advertising. They link to video works of mine.

Q: How do you survive as an artist in a digital world?

A: I believe the digital world has given the artist and the artistic community a great gift in being able to create works using this medium. I have been working in time-based art my entire career, and to be able to shoot video on my phone, edit it on laptop is a wonderful, wonderful gift. I also think that Web-based presence for artists is absolutely key in regards to maintaining a professional career. When I give lectures, I do stress that online portfolios, social networking and media are absolutely necessary in this culture, and that’s a wonderful thing.

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