As I’m checking in from a coffee shop called the Flying Pig on the coast in North Carolina, surrounded by a pile of research books for thesis, I wanted to …
My name is Dustin. I graduated from Northern University with a BFA in Drawing in 2012. I am in my first year in the Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts MFA program. I am a dad and a geek, and I make stuff on and out of paper.
Tell us a little bit about what you were doing before you came to Columbia.
Right after graduating high school, I attended community college for a couple years, mostly taking random art classes without a lot of focus and not much of a plan. After that, I tried the whole “taking a break thing”, quitting school and heading off to the work force. For awhile there, I was stuck in the retail trap, working one retail job after another, being generally unhappy with what I was doing with my life. I wasn’t doing anything creative aside from the occasional doodle in a cheap sketchbook. Along the way, I got married, and my wife and I decided to pursue our passions and return to school to get our undergraduate degrees, hers in biology and women’s studies, mine in art. I received my BFA in Drawing from Northern Illinois University in 2012. During our time there, we also decided to start a family, and we now have two children: Claire, who is now three turning 30, and Gavin, who just turned a year old this August. Mostly, my body of work consists of portraits of myself, family members, and close friends in other worldly and often imbued with super powers. My self portraits usually play with the notion of the creator myth, a concept that was termed “Dad-ness” when I was fortunate enough to have had a critique with one of my heroes, Zak Smith. While at NIU, I had taken a class in papermaking, which led me to take another class in papermaking the next semester, a first time offering for the school. What had started out as an interest in learning about the surface that I was making my drawings on brought me to deep love for the craft.
Why did you choose Columbia for your graduate study?
While earning my BFA at NIU, I realized that I wanted to teach at the college level, and to do so, I would have to attend graduate school. After making the decision to continue on with my education, I knew that I really wanted to attend a school in my precious Chicago. Lots of researching ensued. Chicago colleges and universities offer a lot of choices when it comes to graduate programs in the arts, but I found something unique and special about Columbia College Chicago in its Interdisciplinary Arts programs. The way I see Interdisciplinary Art is that it’s a way of making that is less restrictive and more open to exploration. I had already had a fairly straightforward art education in my undergraduate studies, and I wanted to do something different. Once I visited the Center for Book and Paper Arts, I was sold. This was the school I was going to attend. No question. I deleted my applications to the other Chicago schools and made the bold decision that I would only be applying to this one program. I would either get in or, well, I don’t know what else. I was so determined to get in that I couldn’t think of a different scenario. And it worked! I was accepted to Columbia College Chicago. I would get to be in Chicago, right in the middle of things, at the only school I wanted to be at. I would get to make work in the beautiful facilities at the Center for Book and Paper Arts, with its gorgeous windows filled with natural light and its expansive paper studio (with floor drains!). I chose Columbia because, for me, there was not any other choice.
Tell us about a project you’re working on that you’re excited about.
Right now, I am working my way through Thinking Through Making, which is a three-part course with sections in papermaking, book binding, and letterpress printing. It’s pretty intense, in a good challenging sort of way. It’s very project heavy, which really makes you get into the studio to work and make things that you are proud of. This semester, I have made a handful of books, a ton of paper, and am now learning how to set type, something that I have never done before this class. As far as projects that I am working on outside of the class room, there are a couple of things. One is that I am starting a new drawing series that I will be pulling handmade paper for. Instead of simply applying color to the surface of the drawing, I am going to start by pigmenting the pulp and having some of the drawing take place inside of the page. I am also working on a series of journals and books inspired by science fiction. This is a concept that got me interested in making books in the first place. I have always been enamored by religious manuscripts that have shown up in works of science fiction and am really excited to begin work on pieces of my own in this vain.