A newcomer to the Utah Arts Festival’s Artists Marketplace who recently left a full-time teaching job to focus on her art, Lauri Dunn (Booth 46) of Denver transforms images of insect wings into meditative, modern photographs and photo sculptures. Her work is inspired by the natural world, but also displays her love of the urban environment with strong contrasts, geometric forms, and a metallic resin finish. Dunn answered a few questions from The Utah Review about her art and the creative process she engages.
TUR: How have you used art media forms in helping to create a holistic body of artistic work that searches for a more complete expression of your own innermost and most powerful states of emotion, inspiration, contemplation, and self-identity?
LD: An evident theme that runs through my work is transformation. In the work that I’ll be showcasing at The Utah Arts Festival, I begin by photographing an insect and end with a meditative two and three dimensional pieces, that are indecipherable as their original selves. The concept of metamorphosis important in the use of insects as subject matter, and in the transformation of the subject itself.
TUR: What is your training as an artist? Who do you consider your most significant influences and inspirations? Do these influences shift as you progress both in your work and life?
LD: I graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2003, at a time when digital photography was just becoming mainstream. All of my training had been in the darkroom, using film cameras, and other archaic photographic processes. The ritual of developing negatives, the smell of fix, watching an image gradually appear in a tray of developer, were all very important to me. I was hesitant to convert to digital, and in fact, I nearly failed the only required digital photography class I took in school!
After years of working in the darkroom, I found just popping a memory card into the computer, clicking a mouse, and having a print appear on my doorstep a few days later to be a very unsatisfying process.
My work seeks to bridge the gap of the hands-on process of traditional photography with the technology that is available today. In my photographic sculptures I photograph and edit the work digitally but spend hours upon hours assembling the final piece. The ritual of being physically involved with the work is extremely important to me.
I have always been inspired by photographers who push the boundaries of the medium. In an age when every human always has a camera on them, I believe that it will become more and more important to push the boundaries of what photography can be in order to stand apart in this Instagram era.
TUR: Do you work full-time exclusively as an artist? Or, how do you augment your work as an artist?
LD: I left my full-time job teaching elementary art a year ago, so that I could devote more time to my artistic practice. I still work as an adjunct instructor for an online school, which lends me the ability to set my own office hours, and travel to art festivals.
TUR: Do you find it easy or difficult to start new work? And, typically, how do you prepare yourself to handle both the creative and physical demands of creating your art?
LD: Someone once told me that there are three ways to find inspiration: Drugs, God, and Hard Work. Of the three only hard work will have any lasting effect. I treat my artistic practice like any job, I show up and do the work for a set amount of time each day. Sometimes the work yields immediate visible results. Sometimes it does not. There is an element of faith that is important to continuing this practice and being able to believe that what you are striving to accomplish will actually manifest itself.
TUR: With regard to participating in the Utah Arts Festival, please share your feelings about being a part of this enterprise? Have you been in other festivals and do you plan to explore other festival venues?
LD: I am so excited to participate in such a large celebration of the arts! I’ve participated in various festivals throughout Colorado and the Dallas area, and hope an annual trip to Salt Lake City is in my future.