It’s written that Vincent van Gogh said, “I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” And his art was born. Artists before van Gogh and after him have put their dreams to the test and proven that there’s nothing quite like turning those dreams into reality with a lot of hard work and talent.
William Dunlap, his wife Linda Burgess and their daughter Maggie are three very talented individuals, without a doubt.
Dunlap has a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Mississippi; Burgess, a Master of Fine Arts in painting from Rutgers University and their daughter Maggie goes to college at the School of Visual Arts in New York City where she’s studying Visual and Critical Studies. Suffice it to say, there’s more than a dollop of creativity and mastery that makes up this family’s DNA.
Dunlap’s work has been on display in such renowned locations as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. He’s a Mississippi native, Ole Miss Alum and a man who knows how to wield a brush and palette.
“I came back from Los Angeles and the so-called “Summer of Love” in late August 1967,” Dunlap said. “At the urging of my selective service board I left the big R&B aggregation, Tim Whitsett and the Imperial Show Band, to begin the MFA program at Ole Miss. Far and away the best thing that had ever happened to me to that point in life.
“The art department occupied the first two floors of Bryant Hall and was right in the center of things in more ways than one. Terrific professors, two of whom I would teach with later at the University of North Carolina’s Appalachian State campus, a new foundry, which I would run, to say nothing of the national political swirl and disruption of the late 60s, much of it occurring within a 100 mile radius of Oxford, Mississippi. One of the first people I met was the young Ed Meek who was running public relations and we became and have remained friends ever since.”
“As is the case with so many Ole Miss Alumni I have been marked by the place, I came of age as an artist at Ole Miss and remain in touch with so many people who meant so much to me then; any excuse to come back is a good one.”
Dunlap and his wife, Linda Burgess have lived a life of art and beauty for most of their married lives and their daughter Maggie grew up surrounded by the creative aura, but Dunlap said that neither of them pushed their only child in that direction.
“I got into the baby business rather late and as an only child Maggie has been wonderfully underfoot since birth,” Dunlap said. “For her the most natural thing in the world is to see both parents get up in the morning, go to separate studios and make paintings, drawings, or write.
“It’s only with the slightest bit of irony that I declare myself the third best artist in my family. Maggie could’ve done anything she wanted with her life; we certainly didn’t push her in the direction of the visual arts, and I cannot remember ever giving her an “art lesson “as such, but she grew up going to galleries and museums and visiting other artist’s studios and as it turns out had an excellent eye from the very beginning.
When working on a painting, it wasn’t unusual for me to ask her to come in and take a look at it and tell me what she thought. This she did from the time she could barely stand. On long road trips, of which they were many, we would rig up a drawing table; a classic method for the only child to entertain herself. She is self-taught in many areas and especially as a draftsman, where she excels mightily.”
Maggie, 19, agreed there was no pressure for her to follow in her parents’ footsteps, but she was very happy to do it anyway.
“My parents never put any sort of pressure on me to be an artist, they only made themselves available if I asked for any sort of help or guidance,” she said. “I feel very lucky to have grown up being surrounded by art and the art world. I don’t think their work directly influenced mine, but watching them work definitely did. I learned how to be a professional artist by watching the way my parents did the same.”
Her artistic abilities and inclinations showed up pretty early on in life and it seemed a natural progression for the little girl to just simply go-with-the-flow.
“I’m an only child, so I drew as a little kid to keep myself entertained. I was always artistically inclined, and it never occurred to me to “be” anything but an artist,” she said. “I went to an art high school for my freshman year, but it wasn’t the right fit for me and so I asked to be homeschooled. My parents were onboard, since they’re artists that work from home. I was homeschooled for the rest of high school except for a semester-long program I attended in Northern California called The Oxbow School. Now I go to college at the School of Visual Arts studying Visual and Critical Studies.”
Watching her growing up and seeing her artistic tendencies, Dunlap said that neither he nor his wife ever tried to advise her or instruct her in any way.
“Maggie’s always felt comfortable in a variety of social situations. We were bad to bring her to cocktail and dinner parties without warning our host; if Maggie promised to wear her “adult hat” she could come,” Dunlap said. “The only advice I ever gave her was to ask adults questions about themselves, they absolutely love that.
“I recall one incident, a ball game weekend in the Grove with Jan and Lawrence Farrington’s family. Maggie must’ve been about three and she was going around saying Hotty Toddy and pulling her sundress up over her head. I overheard two elegant ladies seriously discussing whether this behavior was more Tri Delt or Chi O.
“As much as I would have loved for Maggie to attend Ole Miss, she had her heart set on New York from a very early age, and given that while at Appalachian State University I was instrumental in establishing a branch campus in Manhattan for the purpose of young artists to live and work in the most important arts center on the planet, it would’ve been more than a little hypocritical of me to have resisted.
“As for Maggie’s own personal style it will be on view along with the work of her mother, Linda Burgess, at Southside Gallery this spring. Stay tuned.”
And Maggie’s style is something that is very distinguishable and in some cases, controversial. Maggie uses embroidery, needlepoint, and female undergarments such as slips and underwear, as canvasses for her work to create art that not only empowers women, but strives to take away the stigma from things that some people consider taboo, even today.
“I was originally drawn to fabric work such as embroidery and needlepoint because of its tactile nature,” Maggie said. “After I started working with these mediums, I learned more about their history and intersection with women’s history.”
Maggie did a piece called Jungfrukällan, which is the original Swedish title for Ingmar Bergman’s film The Virgin Spring. The movie is set in medieval Sweden and is the story of a father’s unforgiving response to the rape and murder of his young daughter.
“That piece took about a month to create and the statement I wrote to accompany it took about the same amount of time to write,” she said. “Activities like sewing are very repetitive and almost act as a sort of meditation, so it’s very calming and rewarding work for me to do.”
Maggie’s work always opens up a conversation for more dialogue about the topic, something that pleases her greatly, especially if that conversation surrounds subject matter that is oftentimes “off limits” for whatever reason and stifles the female response in any way, either pro or con, such as when she uses the naturalness of the female body to bullseye a point in her work.
“Imagery referring to menstruation in my work isn’t necessarily literally speaking about menstruation. I think of that imagery as a visual representation of the transitional time in a girl’s life when she realizes her body is not her own,” Maggie said. “But it is equally as important to reinforce the fact that periods and vaginas don’t equal womanhood. Not all women have periods and in that way, it is important that my art doesn’t focus too much on menstruation.”
William Dunlap is very proud of his daughter’s ability to stay true to her art and her ethic to keep mastering it no matter what.
“Talk is cheap in the art world and there’s way too much of it as there is,” Dunlap said. “As far as advice is concerned, the best and most profound I ever received was from a high school football coach, Jack Taylor, who often implored me to, “keep your head down and your feet moving.” He certainly had one thing in mind and I another. Maggie knows intuitively that connections, good fortune, family name, degrees and talent are worth very little if one does not do the work. That’s why we discus Caravaggio, Tintoretto, Rembrandt, Rubens, Mr. Faulkner and Miss Welty today; they did the work.”
Maggie Dunlap’s first solo show opens in Miami at &gallery on October 3, 2015.
Angela Rogalski is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at email@example.com.
Photos courtesy of the Dunlap family