Who comes to an art opening strapped into a mover’s dolly and wheeled into place? (Hint: it’s not Lady Gaga; and Salvador Dali is dead). Artist Dune-Micheli Patten made this unconventional entrance for his own 2002 shows – since he wasn’t walking at the time.
Dune is a Houston-based, largely self-taught artist and Christian – not necessarily in that order. His zeal is evident by a glance at his website where visitors are greeted with scripture such as, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” and dottings of his personal testimony.
Dune describes himself as a “Heaven-born mixed-media, multi-visual creative Spirit working in a variety of disciplines such as Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Installation, and Performance Art.” Although “heaven born,” his work has been widely and well received, exhibited and purchased in this dark orb.
His first major installation in 2002, “Treasures in Jars of Glass: Modern-Day Essenes,” earned attention of notable institutions and museums including the Seattle Art Museum and the Gates Foundation. Since then, Dune has shown at dozens of varied venues from the the Art Car Museum to CD release parties. Internationally he has shown in London, Scotland, Italy, Africa and Peru.
Coming across his work, I was especially intrigued by his thoughts and running commentary about life, Christ, the world and his own experience. They aren’t “explanations” so much as continuations of his art, preludes or postscripts. Recently I had the chance to interview Dune, pick his brain a bit and ask about his newest work.
Marisa: “Why do you make art – what is your primary purpose – what drives you?”
Dune: “Making art for me, is an act of praise – but it should be approached with diligence and purpose of action, as any practice. Art is integral to not only the creation and expression of life, but also the extension of life. I work from a point of reference that approaches art as a means to reconcile our human existence here, in our local urban landscape, with our eternal existence.”
Marisa: “How do feel about fame and prestige? Is it something you have sought or that you consider important?”
Dune: “When I was little boy I always fantasized about doing something great and being famous; to make a mark. And as I grew older I realized that, spiritually, I am (already) famous – everybody knows me in heaven!”
Marisa: “I’d like to know more about your Biblically related pieces/work. Tell me a little more about one of your Urban Expressionism pieces like ‘Paul’s Letter to Delphi’ or ‘Tribulation.’ You have many.”
Dune: “Absolutely. … ‘Paul’s Letter to Delphi’ was imagined from the historical findings of fragments of a letter by the Roman Emperor Claudius – called the ‘Delphi Inscription’ – and discovered in early 20th century at the temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece. And the fragments present an interesting chronology of the life of Paul; and relating to Paul’s trial when he was in Greece – expressed in Acts 18:12-17. ‘Tribulation’ is a commentary (and seemingly prophetic) on the nature of societies in its participation in immoral degradation in thoughts, practices, and law-making decision (‘Wine of Babylon’ also touches this subject); reminding me of Sodom and Gomorrah … chilling. But, we know these things must happen. So, it is a very significant time to be a Christian artist (though I call myself ‘Creative Spirit’) in hope to win souls through abstract concept prism art.”
Marisa: “Tell me about you piece ‘Gathering We Flock.’ I see the birds circling in a kind of tessellation pattern which is great. I think this is related to Biblical themes as well?”
Dune: “Yes! There is that tessellation pattern that I hoped would of show through; so I am thrilled that you see it. It also has this back-and-forth agitated movement, attempting to replicate the actual flight movement of a flock of birds. I also felt like I was taking it rather easy by using artistic license with the loosely painted forms which are very distorted; so it gave me the freedom to just approach the work in a more ‘impressionistic’ kind of way. I am a math instructor, as well. So, it is an interesting ‘re-presentation’ of infusing mathematical principles into art – as many painters did in earlier centuries.”
Marisa: “One photo shows you with a very traditional ‘religious’ type of painting. Is it yours? Are you changing styles?”
Dune: “I did more classic representative work before my accident. Occasionally I still do something in that older style. ‘Da Narezza ci è Luce’ is a recent example. There is purity and truth that solely lay within the traditions and classics; but it can also be expressed within the modern, the contemporary. So, I endeavor to show this purity and truth in this era as well.”
Marisa: “Why the dolly and so on in your earlier solo art shows?”
Dune: “Well, it wasn’t planned. I had a near-death automobile accident in 2001 which almost ended my career. There was far too much a famine in my life that it was almost unbearable and for a while, I felt as though I was losing my senses and thought I would lose my life. Recovering from partial paralysis, I turned inward to a God – a focused spirituality. I sought peace, reading poetry and listening to music. It was a miraculous recovery.”
Marisa: “I notice that’s when your art and career really began to take off. Although you would think someone partially paralyzed would be struggling.”
Dune: “My passion was restored at that time and I began to want to ‘speak’ with my art. So the natural way for me to do this is to use the spoken word – much like the Word of my Father in Heaven. Doing this I developed a unique style I call ‘Urban Expressionism©.'”
Marisa: “Describe ‘Urban Expressionism,’ please. It looks a little like abstract expressionism. I notice you have also copyrighted the term.”
Dune: “There are things that have randomly happened in my paintings that I believe are manifestations of truth and life of the spirit. But I sought … to fit my ideal into a form in which art and communication could reasonably merge and become one flesh. A spherical collection. Attempting to keep it simple and pure, a language library began to emerge. Everything became referential – words, text, signs, symbols, everything. I call this language ‘Urban Expressionism.'”
Marisa: “I wouldn’t put you on the spot by springing the ‘What is art?’ question on you, but I like what you said elsewhere: ‘Art is not simply communication. For me, art is a substantial transference of energy; with the Spirit at the core of it.’ I see you have eight current exhibits listed! What are you working on now or have in the wings?”
Dune: “Yes. I am working on marrying mythology with Biblical associations. Works like ‘Pegasus/Perceus’ representing Moses on a horse; and the head of Medusa representing the Law (Ten Commandments) which turns people into stone (being “convicted by the stone tablets”) when we are faced with our sin.”
Marisa: “I’ll be sure to check that out, it’s a great concept.” [End of Interview].
Dunes’ future work could be anywhere: major museums, a Starbucks or antique mall. He isn’t an art snob, but considers art a thing to be offered in the same sense as the gospel: everywhere. This is evident is his website where he signs off by posting Jeremiah 33:3: “Call on me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things you do not know.”
Where can an artist find a better offer than that?