My name is Michael Dunn, and I live and work in and out of my studio located in a small valley high in the Santa Cruz Mountains along the central coast of California. For those most interested in an Artist's Statement and Résumé, they are available on a separate page of this site. For a more in depth look at the artist and sculptor and what motivates me and what factors led me to create the art that I do, read on.
I was raised in the Santa Cruz area most of my life, and in fact I'm the fifth generation of family from this general location. I grew up with some of the same people I went to Kindergarten with, and so didn't have much of an awareness of life outside of here until later in my early adulthood. I come from a lower middle class background, and have a lot of the typical attributes of people raised in a similar economic situation - no real desire for wealth, but a desperate need to survive, a good work ethic, and a revulsion for regimentation. Morally I do believe very strongly that all that there is is of God, that God is Love, and that all things are as they are meant to be. I can't change the world, but I can influence small changes that might help make a difference - maybe. It's not important to be important, but in the process of pursuing my art I'm finding that I am significant to some. My friendships come from a wide variety of people and I enjoy the diversity. I'm not one to try to fit into any crowd, and although I don't exactly blend in, I'm actually fairly invisible to many.
I come from a family of two sons and two daughters, in that order, and I'm the oldest, and sometimes in my communication I can see that role still exhibiting itself - the independence, and confidence, even when I don't have a clue as to what the real correct answer or course of action might be. In a standard way of measuring success I don't do too well, but for myself, I feel pretty good about my life. It's had a ton of adventures and lessons, trials and tribulations, times of peace and times of depression. I have the typical sense of responsibility, meaning I stress over taking care of problems before they become a problem, want things to be right, and so on. It's an old pattern that has served me well at times.
My folks were fairly typical of their generation, having gone through both the Depression and World War II. My father and mother both were only children, so there were a lot of conflicts between them, resulting in getting married five times and divorced five times - to each other. I'm sure this pattern of theirs had a lot to do with me having never married. My father was a severe violent alcoholic, and my mother became an alcoholic over time herself, so that also had a lot to do with some of the side trips and attitudes that led me to create the work I do. Art was discouraged by my parents as having no value, no future, and not something to even consider making a living doing, so I didn't pursue it much, if at all, in my younger years. I did show some talent as a child, or at least my teachers thought so, and I enjoyed it, but I became more interested in math and science, and did pretty well in them, and that became my main path well into my twenties.
There was a period in my youth in which we owned a ten acre farm and raised a lot of animals for consumption, about three acres of marketable vegetables, and a lot of flowers for the nursery that my grandparents owned. This was from second grade through seventh, and it still seems to be one of the most influential factors in my life. I loved the country, and spent a lot of time exploring and getting to know the land intimately. It was also during this time that I started wanting to go to church a lot to find out about God and what that was all about. I took every available moment I had to go up into the forest and think, or meditate, I guess, and try to get a grip on what my life was about. I never was very successful at coming to any solid answers, but it was nice to know that there was always someone there to talk with. It still is.
I did well in school, and was basically a pretty good kid, but I did a lot of rebellion, and got into my share of typical trouble. After high school I attended an engineering college and did fairly well, until I could no longer afford it, and with the draft after me I joined the Navy in 1968. This became a turning point in my life when I decided that I would have nothing to do with fighting a war that I didn't believe had any rightness to it at all. The result was that I dropped out of the service, out of the normal way of life, and sort of became a hippie, spending a lot of time in school, getting a degree, and finally backpacking throughout Europe for a year with my main focus being to learn to carve wood. This was the start of my art career. From there things sort of happened to where I wound up with this piece of land so far back in the mountains that I had no road for over five years, and learned to survive off the land, somewhat, built this studio from the materials at hand, and became the hermit that seems to be the lot in life that I was destinied for. I'm not saying I like living this solitary, but it's acceptable, and preferable to living amongst the noise and distractions of the city.
And so, over the last twenty or so years I've puttered around with the land, gotten serious at times about making this studio a fine piece of work, developed my skills to the state you see in the art pages, and had an occasional interaction with different female teachers that've taught me some hard lessons and inspired some of my best works. Love is still the only thing that gives life meaning, I suppose, but after having been married and learning a few lessons from that I'm fairly content to fly solo and enjoy life as it unfolds, without the stress that a relationship can impose on my life. Love can come from many different sources, and one is the joy of waking up each day and being glad to be alive. That works for me.
All in all, though, I guess the simplest way to put it is that I do still believe in true love, find great pleasure in the beauty of nature, have an appreciation for the perfection of the mathematically exact curve, and think in three dimensions, if not more. I think I have something to share, something to give to the world that can make it a little more rich than it was, and definately enjoy the fact that I can create real things that were only concepts in my mind.
If you are really curious about who I am, feel free to ask.