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Art&Seek Q&A: David McCullough

by Alex Knesnik 28 Sep 2009 2:05 PM

Dallas artist David McCullough discusses his hopes for his future creative home as part of this week’s Art&Seek Q&A:



If you attended Picnic in the Park earlier this month at the Dallas Arboretum, you probably watched in awe as David McCullough painted his interpretation of the night. McCullough lives and works behind the burgeoning strip of restaurants and nightlife on Henderson west of Ross in Dallas. He is represented locally by HCG Gallery in the design district and is the winner of the 2007 Moss/Chumley Award given by the Meadows Museum. A cross-disciplinary artist, he works in acrylic paint, watercolors, sand, glass, cement and digital media. A two-story steel–and–glass structure with a curved roof in its center bay dominates his backyard. It is visible from Henderson, and when it is finished it will be his studio. McCullough discusses his hopes for his future creative home with Art&Seek guest blogger Alex Knesnik as part of this week’s Art&Seek Q&A:

Art&Seek: Did you design this structure?

David McCullough: Yeah, it’s my design. Actually, I worked downtown in a building, an old warehouse, and it had the same kind of clerestories on both sides, the same kind of thing as this. I’ve wanted to do this curved roof for a long time. It’s Galvalume. I ended up using just a 15 degree arc. It could have gone all the way [meeting up with the outside columns]. We couldn’t get the crane in here to do it, because of the telephone lines.

A&S: The structure does more than cover you when you’re working. There’s another aspect to the building. What is it, outside of the function, that —

D.M.: Well, there are different things. These window structures are Hopi — I don’t know if you can see — the Hopi cross. I’m doing this as a master-builder would make it. So there are solutions that I haven’t found yet. So when I haven’t found a solution, I wait on it. I might leave this hole here [indicating a gap in the second story floor] so that light will come in. Either that or I have to do a glass block floor. I’m concerned with how much natural light I’m going to get when I’m working in here.


A&S: The art you created in the 1980s and ‘90s was often site-specific. What is that creative process like?

D.M.: I’d go to areas where the fall — I was dealing with a more fall palette — and tried to get a feel for what was going on with the play of light in the trees. Which is tricky, because they’re like mobiles: they flash and move. So all day long they change colors. You have to work, then pause, and then work into the late afternoon and the evening because it’s different. Yellows are totally one way, one time of day and then in the latter part of the day, they’re different.

A&S: How do you capture that kind of change? The movement between the different looks of the place?

D.M.: I work to jazz music and indigenous music from around the world. I work on the ground, not on an easel, so I just usually plant myself down from a point–of–view that’s interesting to me. There’s a lot of ways that I compose abstractly from what I’m seeing to get at the rhythmical qualities of the place. Basically, the place and its nature are what I’m looking for. I’m looking for the sacredness of a place, and how it’s communicating certain resonances to me. When the plants are moving, they’re dancing.

A&S: Who are some other artists that you admire?

D.M.: I was talking to a friend about Chaim Soutine’s paintings, and his work was more about aggressive, thick, oil–painted examples of interiors and people. But he did some landscapes, and I saw them one day at the Kimball. And I thought, “Aw man, that’s very much like the way I work” [He’s] gesturing in such a way that you’re exposing elements, like the wind and the way trees grow, and they’re gnarly. I’m from New England, so I’ve always appreciated Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent. And I also enjoy looking at art from all over the world — people that don’t really have names on their work.

The Art&Seek Q&A is a discussion with a person involved in the arts in North Texas. Check back Thursday for another installment.