Monday, March 27, 2023

William Dunlap's Multi-Decade Career on Display in Gallery 130

Mississippi artist William Dunlap sits in Gallery 130 in Meek Hall and discusses his exhibit, "Look At It/Think About It," which is on display until Nov. 7. / Photos by Amelia Camurati
Mississippi artist William Dunlap sits in Gallery 130 in Meek Hall and discusses his exhibit, “Look At It/Think About It,” which is on display until Nov. 7. / Photos by Amelia Camurati

William Dunlap has worked for 40 years to create the “Look At It/Think About It” exhibit on display in Gallery 130.
Dunlap, a former artist in residence for the University of Mississippi in 2003, has returned with dozens of works spanning four decades and multiple mediums to fill the gallery in Meek Hall until Nov. 7. Dunlap said he “wanted to be an artist before he knew what an artist was,” and his family encouraged his work.
IMG_4513After attending Mississippi College, he jumped to Ole Miss in 1967 to avoid the draft for the Vietnam War. He taught at Appalachian State University and then Memphis State University as an art professor but hasn’t had a 9-to-5 job since 1979.
The title of the exhibit is as literal as expected, asking the audience to focus on the work presented and establish their own opinion of Dunlap’s meaning.
“The whole business of Look At It/Think About It is what I do when I go to museums and galleries. One of the great assets to being an artist is when you travel, whether it’s to Memphis or Manitoba, you go to the galleries and you look at the objects people have made,” Dunlap said. “If you’re in a cave in the south of France with 27,000-year-old scratches made by human beings make about as much sense as the Louvre. I’m constantly looking at things and thinking about them, and I want to encourage that. That’s the gospel I’m preaching — the gospel of looking and thinking.”
The walls are covered with drawings and paintings of dogs, landscapes and wartime depictions, including a large double-canvas painting with a collaboration of many war-era tanks, airplanes and even monster alligators entitled “What Boys Paint.”
“When you think about it, a turtle and an alligator, they’re the first armored personnel carriers,” Dunlap said. “Everything we build with our technology is an extension of our own natural world. Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of parachutes and tanks — he imagined them extrapolating from animal forms.”
IMG_4487The large painting is surrounded on two sides by smaller drawings, collectively called, “What Boys Draw,” based on what Dunlap saw in newspapers and magazines after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Dunlap said he didn’t draw the war itself, but instead mimicked what he saw in the media coverage of the war. In front of the drawings is a stack of newspapers that he used as inspiration.
“That curl of smoke is that curl of smoke (in the drawing,)” Dunlap said, pointing to the papers.
Dunlap also focuses on landscapes and allegories of those landscapes, often adding industrial elements into the background of otherwise pastoral sketches. One in the gallery shows a large farm and field with two cooling towers in thee background.
“As long as I’ve been making landscape paintings, I see industry incurring on it all the time,” he said. “I drive up and down Interstate 81 a good deal, and it’s changing drastically.”
When asked what his favorite type of subject to paint, draw or sculpt was, Dunlap’s answer was simple: “It’s the one back in the studio that I haven’t finished.”
Here’s some photos of some of the works in the “Look At It/Think About It” exhibit in Gallery 130:
Dunlap took Polariods of people holding old family photos in the 1970s.

Dunlap looks at the sculptures in the front room of Gallery 130, some of the oldest pieces in the exhibit dating back to the late 1960s.

Dunlap has worked on landscape drawings and paintings for years.

Dunlap will be in the gallery at 2:30 p.m. today to answer questions and give interested parties more information about his work. The exhibit will be on display in Meek Hall on campus until Nov. 7.
Amelia Camurati is managing editor of and can be reached at