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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ye Olde Classmates: David Cunningham

David Cunningham was completing his second and final year of graduate school at Indiana University the year I began my first year. In retrospect it is hard to believe how many incredibly talented people I had the privilege of sharing a classroom with, and David was one of the best of them.

Primarily a still-life painter, David's paintings possess an almost mathematically precise perfection in form that is surreal in effect, free of spot or blemish. His compositions are light-filled arrangements of unambiguous color-shapes.

The drawings on David's site are not among his most recent works, but as a figure person myself I am partial to them, especially for the innovative ways that he uses the figure. The two drawings above are entitled "Annunciation I" and "Annunciation II", foreshadowing his wife's pregnancy with their first child. David mentioned to me that he used the shadow across the thigh to suggest a garter belt as well as a pregnant belly, which blew my mind. I had never thought of using shadow in such a way. I 'm not sure if it is intentional, but I can't help but think of the painting below by Andrew Wyeth

"Lovers" by Andrew Wyeth

"Past, Present, Future"

I find it interesting that when men represent their own bodies, there is often a bestial or animal quality in the pose, and the viewer is an uninvited guest. The drawing above always reminded me of a Bigfoot sighting.


In Masaccio's Expulsion from Paradise, Adam's hunched over in a similar apelike fashion, suggesting the animal nature of fallen man. The figures almost try to fold in on themselves.


"Division", also part of this series of graphite drawings seems to speak of the divide between the spiritual and animal side of man, at least that's my interpretation. I find it quite Gollumesque.

Lastly, I'd like to show you a piece that David worked on in graduate school. It was considered a fire hazard to paint in the hallways unless evacuation was necessary. David hung his in progress painting directly next to the fire hose to produce and exact visual replica, including an actual metal handle installed into the panel. Clearly disobeying the warning on the door reading "FIRE USE ONLY" he creates another possible fire hazard in producing a replica that may be mistaken for the real thing. David has since taken this one off of his website, but to me it is a memory worth recalling.

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