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One Degree of Separation

06/09/2014

Myles Dunigan’s piece NEPHELOMANTIA (2014, monotype with image transfers, 15 x 22") evokes half-forgotten dreams.

Thanks to funding from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, printmaker Myles Dunigan 10 PR is packing up his Oakland, CA studio and moving to Lawrence, KS for a three-year master’s degree program in printmaking at the University of Kansas. Dunigan recently learned that he’s one of 20 artists nationwide to win a Graduate Arts Award from the foundation, which provides up to $50,000 per year to cover tuition, living expenses and supplies. Kevin Jankowski 88 IL, associate director of RISD’s Career Center, notes that since the award was created in 2012 his office has promoted the opportunity and helped students and recent alumni with the application process, resulting in a RISD win each year: Scotty Menesini 12 SC in 2012 and Dunigan’s friend and classmate Louie Rigano 10 ID in 2013.

“Printmaking supplies are very expensive,” Dunigan points out. “You can spend hundreds of dollars on copper for a single project. So I’m really thankful for the award and happy to be able to concentrate on my work instead of worrying about money.”

Interested in the effects of time on the environment and on our existential state, Dunigan uses a wide spectrum of printmaking techniques – both traditional and experimental – to infuse his work “with the presence of change and time,” he explains. “Elements are repeated across several prints, giving them the quality of a recurring dream or half-forgotten memory.”

Much of the inspiration for his work comes from “the modern ruins” of New England, where Dunigan grew up as a native of Spencer, MA. “Abandoned factories, decrepit farms and forgotten houses are monuments to the passage of time,” he explains, “and a focal point for my work.”

Dunigan first began exploring these themes at RISD – after returning from a semester at the European Honors Program in Rome. “It was great to absorb so much art history in such a direct way and in such a short period of time,” he says. “Right after I got back, I began forming the ideas that would become my degree project – work I’ve continued since I left RISD, although it has mutated and shifted over the years.” 

After first coming to RISD as a Pre-College student, Dunigan resolved to apply as an undergraduate. “RISD has been the defining force in my artistic career,” he says. “The thing I appreciated the most while I was there was the attention to craft and craftsmanship – learning the skills I needed to bring my ideas to fruition, to make amazing things. At the end of the day, that’s what we are: makers.”

Since leaving campus, Dunigan has come to appreciate the “network of RISD alums out there willing to help you get integrated into whatever situation you're looking for.” For him, that first meant a three-year stint as a print shop technician at Wellesley, after which he headed west for a three-month residency at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, CA, where he continued to volunteer until recently in exchange for studio time. He also worked as a facilities technician at the idyllic Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito.

But Dunigan has always planned to return to academia after a short hiatus, and he opted for a three-year program that would afford him graduate teaching opportunities. “That’s important to me,” he says, “because I ultimately want to teach at the college level. I chose KU because I also want to pursue studies outside of the visual arts – in environmental science and philosophy – and because they have really great faculty, including Yoonmi Nam MFA 00 PR and Shawn Bitters MFA 05 PR, who both went to RISD.”

Once again, Dunigan is back to that “one degree of separation” from RISD. “If you’re in the art world,” he says, “you never really leave RISD. The alumni network is an invaluable resource after you graduate.”

 –Simone Solondz

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tags: alumni, Printmaking

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RISD has a long history of offering Saturday and after-school classes for children and teens, as this photo from c. 1910 confirms.