Beau Dunn is a Los Angeles born and raised multi-media contemporary artist exploring the subcultures of her hometown. She plays with the obsessive search for youth and health, material possession and enhanced masculinity in her visually gripping pieces. We chatted about Beau’s recent solo show (and more shows to come), how her younger tomboy self is now fascinated by Barbies as an adult, and the mental attitude she’s adopted in navigating the art world as a female artist.
When did the ideas behind your pieces at the Plastic show first start coming to you? Had they been sitting with you for a while or was it an all-at-once idea and production kind of thing?
BD — My first solo show entitled PLASTIC was a work in progress spanning over five years in production. I came up with the concept while studying at Pepperdine University in Malibu. Growing up in Los Angeles inspired the concept of the show surrounding the themes of childhood innocence, materialism, and consumerism.
How did your own childhood experiences, such as those with Barbies, help you to develop your current artistic perspective?
BD — It’s pretty ironic, I was actually a tomboy growing up— and played all sports! I didn’t play with Barbies, and I think that is where my adult interest lies with the doll. Barbie is such a controversial figure that spans across generations. I feel my experiences growing up in Beverly Hills, and interest in the human psyche and obsession with materialism, technology, and the use of press have developed my artistic perspective.
Do you ever feel your voice being diminished or overlooked as a female artist? Is that frustrating to think your ideas may be taken less seriously?
BD — Being a female artist in 2017 has been surprisingly welcoming with open arms. I had the same concerns entering a male driven industry— and I feel I am so different, refreshing, and outside the box that instead of not being taken seriously, people are intrigued.
The majority of your art is some kind of witty social commentary— do you think all art is social commentary to a certain extent?
BD — I think all art is so different, but I enjoy bringing more to the table, and slipping in social commentary— I believe we are at such an interesting point in history. Within the last ten years our society has changed drastically, and I like to discuss these changes.
You play with the idea of fragile masculinity in your Size Does Matter series. How do you see modern women being affected by this?
BD — Size Does Matter represents societal pressures imposed upon modern day men. I introduce irony and humor to Trojan condoms, the ultimate symbol of masculine stamina and male self-confidence. Masculinity is now measured financially, materially and of course sexually. When you flip the coin, I feel there are more pressures for women— beauty, success, aging etc.
Do you remember the feeling of your first piece being sold? How did that moment affect the momentum of your career?
BD — Yes! My first piece that sold was a Barbie print I donated to the Art of Elysium Charity here in Los Angeles. It was one of my yellow Barbie portraits, and I was so nervous nobody was going to bid! Of course it was one of the most popular pieces at the auction— with celebrities getting into bidding wars! It was definitely a memorable night!
Where do you find yourself coming up with your best ideas? Particularly when you are uninspired?
BD — I come up with my best ideas usually in the dead of night, or while driving. I will go months or years playing with ideas, and figuring out how to manufacture or produce them. I have a binder with ideas, and ever evolving notes.
Is there ever an anxiety that arises in wondering if the viewers of your art will understand it in the context you intended? Are you ever worried your artistic commentary will be misconstrued?
BD — There is always the thought of rejection, or people not understanding the art piece— but I have so much fun creating art, that even if someone does not understand my particular thought process behind creating the piece, it excites me! Everyone has different views, perceptions, and experiences— and that is the fun part of reactions to artwork.
Do you believe in setting goals for yourself in your career or do you like to focus on taking opportunities as they come?
BD — I definitely take opportunities as they come. The art industry is very unpredictable, and I have learned setting goals or planning does not work for me. It definitely keeps things exciting!
What else can we expect to see from you in 2017?
BD — As we discussed, opportunities always present themselves, but as of now, I am currently showing in Miami (Oliver Cole Gallery), New York (Clic Gallery), Los Angeles (De Re Gallery) and planning a few solo shows for 2017! I will definitely keep you guys posted!