Dune-Micheli Patten is an artist out of Houston, Texas who I came across while viewing the website of the Xanadu Gallery of Scottsdale, Arizona. I saw Dune’s work and wanted to find out more about him. I am always curious and fascinated by artists who work in abstract, as that is not the form of my own art (at least not now). I got in touch and asked if he would be up for an interview about himself and his work and he was happy to oblige.
STM: Hello Dune. It’s great to have this chance to interview you for Studio Tour Magazine. Thank you for taking the time.
DMP: Hello Thomas. Thank you for having me here. It is an honor to have this pleasure to speak with you. So, then it is no trouble at all. The timing is quite good, actually.
STM: So Dune, what are you all about?
DMP: Me? I try not to bring too much attention to myself; though, I do seek to bring attention to Jesus whom gave me the gift to do as He did, and does, which is to create. Of course, I as a Creative Spirit get attention; but, I think that is inevitable. But, just the same, I would rather He gets the glory….though, I do enjoy the blessings that comes with that glory.
STM: What is the meaning of art? Why does it exist in this day and age? What does art mean in your life and how did that meaning develop?
DMP: What is the meaning of art? Do you have a week? Haha, no, I’m kidding. Do you want MY answer or the definitive answer? Definitively, it is the expression and/or application of our creative activity as a human being; whether that expressive activity be in Painting, Sculpture, Drawing, Photography, Installation & Performance Art (I list these as they are within my creative activity and journey). Now, MY answer is this (and it is true of my unique URBAN EXPRESSIONISM 2002-2018 style): Art is reality. Now, it is true that Art lends itself to many interpretations; and that it graciously accepts them. However, Art has a specific truth. For me, Art is a substantial transference of energy; with the Spirit at the core of it. Art should say nothing, but it should resonate everything. Art should be spherical- going out in all directions- but still have a specific point...its origin. My style gives an amplification to the softened voice fallen on the deafened ears and closed hearts and eyes of society. To wit, the meaning in form and content can have just as much, if not more, meaning than the form itself….the process is key. whether in play or serious gesture, Art should be about conviction...passion! There should be blood in every brushstroke….or whatever, I am stroking with at the time (laugh). Art is not life; but Art is necessary for life. I depend on it as the very air I breathe. and it is necessary- good is necessary- especially, now, in this Post Modern Age of ugliness and depravity. I am a warrior in this Age and my Art are my wings and shield. My Art is worship….a prayer starts it, then a supplication, then a proclamation, then a victory dance and primal scream in completion…it’s Performance Art, let me tell ya (laughs again). The manifestation happens when my Art goes on a wall for the public to see. My Art is developing after I understood the gift of lovemaking...lovemaking is not an act;; it’s the entire play.
STM: What do you call the kind of art you create and what are you trying to communicate with your art?
DMP: I call it “URBAN EXPRESSIONISM”(2002-2018); as it gives amplification to the softened voice fallen on deafened ears, blind eyes, and closed hearts of society. While I do not say that Art is a form of communication, but a substantial transference of energy; with the Spirit at the core of it. Most communication is confusion. And, to different people, one piece of art can “speak” more than one thing….that’s deception, in my opinion…and I have continuously gone against the grain. It’s the best way to chip up the wood to see what’s underneath; but I digress. If Art communicated more than one thing to different people, then it lies to its audience AND it pimps itself. So, I don’t seek to communicate; I seek to resonate. I developed the term “URBAN EXPRESSIONISM” out of the fact that my Art sparked in Urban Culture, the landscape of signs, symbols, sounds, etcetera; and I began to want people to feel my work not just see it. And looking to Abstract Expressionism, like a Karel Appel or Asger Jorn went to battle with it, grappled it into a head-lock, and made it tap out (laughs again, hysterically)
STM: Many people love abstract art. Many people don’t understand it. Can you explain it to people in terms of what you do?
DMP: In this Age, life is completely abstract! “All-Picasso” if you will. Why, with bitcoin…cyber-currency…Millenial dudes in skinny jeans and “throwback” beards and hats…throw-up apartment housing constructed as utilitarian corrals congregating cattle; how “abstract” can you get?! Inasmuch, I am an eye-witness. My Art is to record history; in the present tense. I take no sides with my Art; but, it seems all sides see themselves in the Art. Some are offended; some are elated. Some people even call it “trash” (I received that comment on a “disembodied head” drawing I posted on Facebook)
STM: Tell me about your history. Were you formally trained as an artist?
DMP: Although I studied and degreed in College, I am largely “self-taught.” I grew up surfing the beaches of California and so my initial pursuit was to be a professional surfer. After that I decided to go to college but didn’t know what to take on. So, I thought, ‘I like Art’ so I decided that if I am to go to school and pay for it I might as well pay for something I like to do. So, I took some courses- Art History, in particular; which, I increased with love on. Being super stoked on Art History is what actually dialed me in to Painting. That was the year of…well, I won’t date myself but suffice it to say that you could hashtag that as a ‘TBT.”
Before graduation, I had to put artwork from class into a student exhibition where my sculpture was one of the price purchases of the night. The sculpture is titled, “The Press” (a gymnastics maneuver). After that, I was included in a group exhibition where eighteen (18) out of twenty-three (23) pieces sold. Then, I was honored with my first commissioned 600sqft installation project titled, “Treasures in Jars of Glass: Modern-Day Essenes;” so I thought I am on a roll. Since then, my Art has enjoyed seeing countries such as Italy, Peru, Africa, France, Poland, Scotland, etc. (but I’m still considered “emerging” which is ok because it means that I am still rising)
STM: What things inspire you to create the work you create?
DMP: Three words: The Spirit, my Love (I won’t name her in print because she likes to be private…right, Professor?), and the Streets
STM: Many people, sometimes even artists themselves have the view that the starving artist’s image is true – of the artist languishing away, starving for the sake of his art. Do you find that to be so? What bearing, if any, does that view have on your efforts in an artistic career?
DMP: Starving is a Modern concept that looks back to Painters like Vincent [Van Gogh], or Paul [Cezanne]. But, these people not once consider the likes of Pablo [Picasso] or Jean-Michel [Basquiat] or even Jean [Dubuffet]. These cats made it while they were still living; and they were very much striving. So, I don’t focus or even acknowledge “starving;” as I focus on “Striving.” A lot of “artists” do (I use quotations to illustrate my belief that the word has become nomenclature and so I regard myself as “Creative Spirit”- this is another grain-crossing) think this is a novel idea but it only forces you to “put another notch in your belt.”
STM: Did you find it to be an easy road to travel to get to where you are now in your art career?
DMP: Oh, heck no! And it still isn’t. But, what epic tale has ever been easy?
STM: How have you struggled? And what have been your greatest obstacles? How have your struggles affected your work?
DMP: I’ve not ever considered this Art as a struggle. It’s a waltz on stilts
STM: Money, fame, notoriety; Artists always have something they want. What do you want? What is your biggest dream that you want to accomplish with your work? Do you consider yourself to be succeeding in this and why?
DMP: I’ve had money. I’ve had a bit of notoriety. And as far as fame goes, I strive for that but then I mused (in one of my Art Statements) that “I’m already famous. Everybody in Heaven knows me [even the King]” My biggest goal (I don’t have dreams…to me, dreams are only goals not yet realized…so, I stick with goals) is to make a good living into old age. I’d like to be married and have ability to travel with my spouse. I want my name to be in the annals of Art History. And I feel that I am making strides in the right direction. I’m doing this interview with you, yeah? (fist bump)
STM: What was your biggest setback or failure? Where did it take you?
DMP: My biggest setback was giving up creating Art for several years, I experienced a major life crisis that left me in the pits. Collectors dropped me and I can understand that; from a business perspective. But thankfully, Jesus doesn’t leave any one of His flock in the pit. So, in 2013-2014, with the encouragement and support of a budding Art Historian, I began again
STM: To what other activities have your creative abilities taken you? And what other activities are you involved with outside of artistic expression?
DMP: Being artistically inclined at an early age also prepared my mind for the dimensions of understanding Math. And, with this understanding, I have worked with grade-school to young adults in the areas of Preparatory Mathematics such as Beginning Math, Geometry, Introduction to Algebra, Algebra I & II; and other maths. In earlier centuries, Painters and Sculptors were also Engineers and Inventors. Somehow, somewhere along the timeline, people separated the two propensities and they are both so far from the truth that it is almost mind-boggling. So, I do lectures at times to speak about the two becoming one flesh again. When I am not in the studio creating or working to guard precious artifacts, I am in the community helping with cleanup or some type of restoration consciousness. I go out and feed homeless persons. Recently, I volunteered with the Hurricane Harvey relief effort; as well as having pop-up shows to raise funds for donating to homeless shelters.
STM: So, you work with children. How important is it for young people to have an arts education?
DMP: Pablo [Picasso] said it best when he said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist as we grow up.” This is so true and years and decades are witness to this case; that people can start out with an artistic interest- high or mild- and then allow the cares of the world to snatch this beautiful form of existence right out of their hearts. So, art education is very important because it allows and compels a child to see and appreciate just how much “art” is right in front of their eyes. Everything we see has a foundation in art; everything! It makes me sad to hear a person say “I used to be an artist” or “I gave it up because it wasn’t making any money for me.” Now, there are cases where people have to provide for a family so I get it that doing something that brings in a more consistent, steady income. However, to just give up art to make more money is a rather short-sight; and a slight when you think about it.
STM: Is artistic talent learned or is it something one is born with?
DMP: No-one can learn talent; that’s called a skill. There are many skilled people with no talent at all. Now, a person can “tap into” or “discover” a talent that they have; and this supports the side of debate that says talent is something a person is born with. And I agree. God gives gifts to those he loves- which is everybody. However, not everyone can, or should, be an artist. Take an example from the Bible, David and Jonathan. Now, Jonathan was a skilled soldier; but David was skilled AND talented (he played musical instruments). My mother once said, “I don’t know where my son got his talent from because I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler!’ And I’m all joking like, ‘Thank goodness mom because if I had your genes, I would be guessing what I could do’ (wait for it!...)
STM: Can you explain the relationship of your belief in Jesus Christ to the creation of your art, in terms of the why you make it and how you make it?
STM: Looking back on everything you’ve done, is there anything you’re most proud of?
DMP: First and foremost, I am proud of my greatest masterpiece- my daughter being born. Secondly, being the grand prize winner of a citywide exhibition here in Houston. Thirdly, completing an amazing installation project; also, here in Houston. Fourthly, having my art exhibited overseas. Fifthly, being reintroduced to the love of my life by the love of my life.
STM: On occasion, people who are not artists may ask questions which artists sometimes feel are not appropriate, like “How much do you make from your art?” or questions not easily answered like, “How long did that take you to make?” How do you feel about those types of questions? How do you answer them?
DMP: I don’t waste time on these types of people. However, if I cared enough to banter, I would simply say, ‘If you want to know, then go make some art and try to sell it.’
STM: We artists are a very peculiar breed. What do you want people to know about artists?
DMP: We’re wildly sauced. We’re good-flavored. We can have a hard exterior. We have a lot inside. We’re everything you want in an eggroll. So, invest in a combo
STM: On a more personal note, what gives you a deep belly laugh? What gets your heart racing? What gives you the most joy?
DMP: I get a big laugh when my daughter sees something funny in my painting and then I see it and start laughing. I laugh so much that people ask, “what is so funny?” And I say, ‘Have you seen my painting?!’ My girlfriend when she looks at me and smiles. That really gets my heart racing! What gives me the most joy?....Pizza!
STM: Who is “Dune Patten?” What is one thing you want people to know about you?
DMP: Dune-Micheli Patten is AMAZING! And I’m in it to win it
STM: Where can people find you and your work? Is your work for sale?
DMP: My work is always for “sell” I’m ‘Googleable’ over the internet. You can find me by googling “Dune-Micheli Patten” and a particular YouTube video (circa 2008 I believe) where I am actually talking about children and art. Just google “Dune Pattan” (the host spelled my last name incorrectly)
STM: Any shows coming up? And care to give us the scoop on what you are working on right now?
DMP: This is where it gets good and I smile! Right now I am in a few group exhibitions locally here in Houston. The list is as follows:
GRATITUDE Fra Angelico Gallery 6221 Main St, Houston, TX
HOPE RISING The Vineyard 1035 E.11th St Houston, TX
FOTOFEST 2018 The Vineyard 1035 E.11th St Houston, TX
ISM Kallinen Contemporary 511 Broadway St. Houston, TX