Corey Dunlap is currently a student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. You can view his work here.
The 22 Magazine : Your “Mirage” project is inspired by the “mythology” of the suicide of Mike Kelly. Tell me what influence Kelly’s work has on yours?
Corey Dunlap: I have always been drawn to Kelley’s use of visual language. His unapologetic and irreverent method has been able to penetrate the art world with insight to both uneducated and sophisticated audiences. In addition, I share Kelley’s interest in contemporary manifestations of ritual and the ability for art to exist as a type of “materialist ritual.” I wanted to create a work based on the mythologized events of a factual happening, similar to the way in which Truman Capote composed In Cold Blood. Having read reports stating that Kelley was found dead in his bathtub with “propane tanks and pharmaceuticals nearby,” I sought to immortalize this imagined event. In addition, I used the bathtub form as a baptismal reference, which typically promotes rebirth within the Catholic Church.
22: Tell me a little about your piece “Sweet Relief?” Many elements of this piece seem to come up later in other works (the knitted elements, pasted wood in “Leisure Domain” and “The Twins”), what do they symbolize for you? Is there a narrative?
CD: Well, “Sweet Relief” was the final piece in a series dealing with masculinity, public and private spaces, and ultimately centered on gay cruising. I wanted to create a space that upon entering blocked audience visibility; the individuals inside the space could no longer view the faces of those outside, and visa versa. Typically men’s restrooms serve as locations for gay cruising, so I was interested in creating a fantastic inoperative bathhouse in which the design exposes the power dynamics observed in those locations. In addition, the urinal is used as an indicator of authority and inevitably serves as the lynch pin for the entire series. The act of standing and urinating on something or someone is particular to men and places an active and passive role on to those involved respectively. I then wanted to contrast these crude sexual suggestions with the crocheted element as both a material of utility and process. I later came to discover that letting the viewer know I am male significantly alters the reading of the work and I have chosen to run with this gender predicament since creating “Sweet Relief”.
CD: The Care Bear Series occurred after I had accumulated a large quantity of reproductive lithograph prints of birds and foliage in the style of Audubon. On a basic level, the Care Bear Series was an earnest exploration into the visual lexicon that inhabits our culture. While the prints are realistic portrayals of various bird species, the Care Bears are kitsch cartoon representations of bears, made to humor and charm. In addition, graphic designers tape (now deemed an obsolete technology) weaves in and out of objects creating a false sense of depth by contradicting the position of objects in space in relation to one another. Once forced together it is blatantly obvious that an intervention has been made, however, I am interested in the ability of the viewers to allow themselves to disregard rational thought and consider the scenario they are presented with as possessing a meaning greater then the sum if its parts.
22: You mention choosing objects for their “ability to function as stand-ins for their superior counterparts.” What is your idea of a superior counterpart? Why do you find falseness superior to “truth” and what is your conception of what is true in art or otherwise?
CD: I do not necessarily find falseness to be superior to truth but rather I am interested in the manifestations of artificiality that exist in our culture. My understanding of this partially comes from the platonic theory of form, in which all material or sensory experience is an image or copy of the “real.” I am also adamant about the ability of art to demonstrate a unique phenomenological experience. Stating something as true or false simply occurs by calling it as such. While I am not interested in affirming an idea as genuine or otherwise, I am interested in demonstrating how this assertion takes place.
22: You also state “I take pleasure from working with materials that are culturally low class and transforming them into something attention worthy.” Why is this?
CD: I am interested in leading the audience in one direction and then throwing in something unexpected, thus creating a type of punch line. I want the audience to initially experience a sense of understanding and perhaps superiority over the information they are presented with. This basis then allows for me to build upon the expectations of the viewer regarding the image or object.
22: Where did you grow up? Has this effected your theories about the “role” art plays in society at all?
CD: My upbringing in regards to art production was quite schizophrenic. I attended a rigorous magnet art school in Birmingham Alabama starting in grade seven. Though my education was fantastic, it should come as no surprise that Alabama is not a capital for contemporary art. This starvation of conceptual rhetoric taught me to be dedicated and rigorous to my practice. Coming from a place that has little appreciate for abstract knowledge production I am constantly interested in the ability to seduce people to be interested in what I am doing.
22: Tell me a little about your most recent piece “Reclining Nude?”
CD: I was interested in physically placing a body into one of my sculptures. Previous to the “Reclining Nude” I had created a couple pieces that referenced furniture such as a bathtub and a catholic confession booth. Instead of creating another setting that suggested the presence of a body I wanted the figure to be seamlessly incorporated into the scenery. In addition, I had come across an old photograph of a funeral arrangement for a deceased baby. This haunting image depicts a small baby in an open casket flanked by flowers and lights with a sign below saying “Our Baby.” I was interested in recreating this photograph into an surrealist sculpture that exists as a living still life which also possesses a ritualistic aura, all be it an inverted one.