Dana Bunker is a fresh, emerging artist and recent graduate of Pratt Institute for Illustration. She is known for her lace-like portraits intricately woven of ink and cut paper layered to form multi-dimensional works. Her latest show, "Empirical" curated by Samantha Levin and myself at Anagnorisis has gained her some exposure and a captive audience excited for what's on the horizon.
1. What did you think about Pratt?
I loved Pratt because I produced a ton of work. I really felt like I was taking advantage of the place until I got my tuition bill. That took me down a peg or two. The fine arts department consisted of empty, ash colored rooms that had one sink per floor and tables that would collapse. I still like it. I also never lived near campus, so I didn't know a lot of people there. I pretty much spent the entire time in my studio, blasting funk music. I would be there all night sometimes, taking epoch dance breaks every hour or so. I got caught twice by the night time custodian, Jerry, bustin' a move on my drafting table. He told me once that I was "going to make it", I think he just liked my moves.
2. Who were some of your most encouraging teachers?
Doug Parry. He was my teacher for drawing, painting and some lecture classes. He was extremely engaged in everyone's work. It was the first time I started noticing patterns and themes in my work. He made me notice that there is a reason for every decision I make in the studio, even if I don't sometimes realize. It was really encouraging as an art student to have a teacher be interested in not only what your making, but why you make it.
I also had a teacher named Robroy Chalmers for figure drawing. He would always walk around the room during long poses and talk to us, to see if we needed any help. One day, he crouched down next to me on the floor and didn't say anything for a minute, which was awkward, then he opened with "Why do you draw like that?"
I think he sensed the confusion in my face because he immediately went on, "No! It's great! It's just that, do you notice how you fragment the figure like that? How your drawing everything in sections?"
No I had not noticed, but once I did I got really excited. I felt like I was doing something unique.
3. What led you to combining the illustration with the cut paper?
The cutting started when I became interested in scientific illustration. I am fascinated by patterns and forms found in nature and how these forms are, in their own way, perfect. The cutting that I do mimics those rhythms found in nature. Especially in my portraits, the cut outs are a way to incorporate our environment with my figures. I believe that people are constantly being shaped by the world around them. Never are my figures closed off from their surroundings, where they end and the world begins is always blurred.
4. There is a very delicate and beautiful lace like feel to your works, but also a decomposing, degeneration effect.. especially when you remove paper from parts of the body/face. Is this darker interpretation part of your intention?
The state of each of my figures is meant to be a little confused. On the one hand, the figure could be appearing, growing or expanding beyond itself. On the other hand, they could be breaking down and in the process of being consumed by what's surrounds them. My figures swing back and forth between these two processes.
5. Who are some of your contemporaries (friends, colleagues, emerging artists) that you respond to?
Julia Nichols is a photographer who lives in California. Most of the images that I draw from are taken by her. She has an amazing ability to capture expressions and small details that people would otherise forget about. Her photos always inspire me.
6. Some of your works are quite large, do you have a studio space?
I had a studio space at Pratt, but now I work from home. I found an apartment a couple years ago that has a half-bedroom/office that I work from. When I use ballpoint pen I have to work on a horizontal surface, I can't pin it up on the wall because the pen won't write. It's hard to work on a large piece without sitting on the actual paper, so I started setting up two tables at different levels to work on. The taller table I sit on and hover other the shorter table that has my paper on it. I've actually had tables collapse under me before and ruin drawings.
7. Your last show was curated by Anagnorisis at the White Rabbit, how was that?
My whole experience working with both Danielle and Samantha at White Rabbit was great. It's always fun working with people who you genuinely like and get along with. And then to be having a show in a place where people can sit with a drink and look at your work is a dream come true. I personally feel more relaxed looking at work when it's outside the gallery space.
8. Was there a theme behind that body of work? or an overarching inspiration behind your portraiture?
Over all, every piece dealt with how the figure interacts with it's environment, and how this relationship is always changing. With the portraits I was really trying to capture expressions, looks that people give only for a moment, one's that most people never seen. While making my series 'Captured', I was inspired by religious alter pieces and portraits of nobility. I wanted people to feel that even though they did not recognize the faces in these portraits, there was a sense that there was something important about them, that they were worth remembering.
9. How long does it take you to work on one of your larger images?
About a month or so, depending on how much time I can be in the studio.
10. What are you working on now?
I have one larger piece in the works in my studio. I'm really excitied about it because the figure in this piece is a lot more active then in previous works. She's sturggling in a way. I'm also incorporating the cutting with my drawing more. With this piece the cutting isn't just surrounding the firgure, it's weaving in and out. The paper that I am using is also very delicate. I've been having fun with putting colored lights behind the paper, just for fun.
11. Anything we can look forward to (solo, group shows, collaborations/projects)?
I will be doing a group show again with Anagnorisis this fall that deals with the topic of intamacy. I have also been working on a bunch of small drawings that I will be selling at the Williamsburg Flea Market. I'm really looking forward to producing smaller, faster pieces, one's that are really no pressure. I'm guessing that because it's been so nice out, my ability to sit indoors in a studio working on the same piece will be diminishing. I plan on spending my summer outside, drawing small portraits of people who are half mutant-sea-creature.