Last week we installed some fresh new drawings from Oakland-based artist Patrick Dunaway in the L.A. shop gallery. Patrick’s allegorical illustrations deal with themes of death, mystery and magic, most often as related to the harsh desert landscape. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Patrick and chat about this new body of work.
Alexis: Your work contains heavily symbolic imagery, often of totems associated with the desert. I know you’ve spent a good deal of time as both a child and adult in Death Valley- what does the desert mean to you?
Patrick: The desert is of huge significance in my life. I grew up traveling though the West with my family and we have spent many Thanksgiving holidays in Death Valley, thirty-seven years in a row actually! Visually speaking, I love the light there, the expanse and the bleakness. The harsh climate has a way of reducing things to the lowest common denominator. Things that are common elsewhere, can inherit a sense of symbolic weight because of their rarity in the environment.
A: Do you have any special rituals or routines you follow when drawing? Or, as the parent of a two-year- old, is it more about just slipping away to a quiet zone?
P: Sad to say that I have no interesting rituals when drawing aside from finding the time to do so! I have used rapidographs in the past and there is always somewhat of a ritual associated with getting them to work that involves quite a bit of swearing. This last body of work I've moved to using a crow quill and dip ink which eliminates clogging pens but doesn't quite get me the consistent line that I look for all the time.
A: Can you tell me a bit about what sort of themes you had in mind when creating this new body of work?
P: These newer drawings draw on some of the history of the American West. It is a fascinatingly brutal history that when coupled with the geographical setting of the events makes for a potent subject matter. I enjoy working with the mythology and the symbols of these past cultural conflicts in an iconographic manner. The drawings are scenes that don't offer specifics but hint at an overarching story.