Phoenix Artist Daniel Funkhouser on Science Fiction Addiction and How Play Shapes His Work

Daniel Funkhouser in his Phoenix studio space.
Daniel Funkhouser in his Phoenix studio space.
Mikey Estes

What happens in the studio, shouldn't always stay in the studio. Studio Visit Q+A is a new weekly series that profiles artists in their studios. We ask them questions, they provide answers, and then we have a nice discussion about their work. This week: Phoenix artist Daniel Funkhouser.

Arizona local Daniel Funkhouser's work has been a staple in Phoenix's art scene for the past several years. The ASU-trained painter is a former member of Eye Lounge and when he isn't producing his pop assemblages, he works for Scottsdale Public Art. His solo exhibition last fall at Bokeh Gallery was one of our 10 must-sees, so we sat down with him in his studio to talk about his work and what could be coming next.

See also: Tempe Artist Peter Bugg on Dissecting Fashion, House of Cards, and His Equal Scouts Project

Funkhouser's work is rooted in painting, but it often extends beyond that medium, functioning more as assemblages than anything else. His affinity for unconventional materials collides with portraiture, of both himself and those around him. His works clash classical motifs with a contemporary pop sensibility, resulting in an intentionally gaudy and kitschy aesthetic. Like the pop artists before him, such as Warhol and Rauschenberg, Funkhouser is concerned with the multiple and juxtaposition.

Funkhouser's pop aesthetic combines self-portraiture with found object assemblage.
Funkhouser's pop aesthetic combines self-portraiture with found object assemblage.
Mikey Estes

Much of his works take form through play. "A lot of the ideas I get is because I have access to a material," Funkhouser says, "trying to learn how to use a new medium is sometimes where I have the most fun and have that artistic moment." Flowing between intuition and concrete ideas, Funkhouser's process is reminiscent of child's play. Just as a child gets lost in their imagination and envisions another world, Funkhouser is creating his own pictorial utopia that blurs the lines between male and female, high and low culture, and the magical and the practical.

Over the past year, Funkhouser has made leaps in escaping crippling perfectionism. Several small works in his studio, what he refers to as "ADHD material studies," are the result of unfiltered intuition. "[I was] letting my body respond to whatever I was working with," says Funkhouser, "they just organically came about." The body is a critical element of the work that Funkhouser produces. His output was once completely self-portraiture, but more recently he has invited friends to participate in his process. Funkhouser provides the overall concept and they play dress-up, take pictures, and bounce ideas off of one another. "It's almost like a performance of me and the person," he says.

Bins in the artist's studio contain materials that he's collected himself or inherited from friends.
Bins in the artist's studio contain materials that he's collected himself or inherited from friends.
Mikey Estes

Frame fragments, gargoyle statues, bits of leather, Pokémon cards, toys, fake flowers, archaic technology, and lights are among the excess materials that Funkhouser has sitting in his studio now. He may not know exactly what he'll be using these things for, but he knows he'll need them in the near future. That may sound like it could be an upcoming episode of hoarders, but sometimes art making can get a little messy. With ARTELPHX coming later this year at The Clarendon Hotel, here's hoping he has another installation in store for us that's just as mesmerizing as last year's magical mirror and LED piece, or at least as demanding of a selfie.  

Funkhouser's "ADHD material studies" result from playing and making simultaneously.
Funkhouser's "ADHD material studies" result from playing and making simultaneously.
Mikey Estes

Tell us about your work in haiku format. Quasi-memoir-ish Unstable identities Clusterfucks, mostly

What artist(s) are you really into right now? Sarah Hurwitz and Colin Chillag. Both are local, but I think they're world class. They're both so personal and honest and weirdly perfect while being imperfect. It's that special artwork which hurts a little to experience.

What are you reading? A sci-fi book by David Zindell called Neverness. It has an unusual look at human civilization post-Earth. You had a 75 percent chance I'd name a Science Fiction book. I've been addicted since I was a kid and have to force myself to branch out.

One of Funkhouser's central materials is wood, allowing him to easily build a composition and build off of it.
One of Funkhouser's central materials is wood, allowing him to easily build a composition and build off of it.
Mikey Estes

What's the last TV show, film, or video you watched? TV: Framework - furniture building reality competition with local dude Brandon Gore as a judge. I've been a fan of Brandon Gore for a couple years and suddenly he's on a crazy and addictive reality show. Film: Serial Mom by John Waters. Video: A music video playlist on YouTube. I watch a lot of music videos.

If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be and why? I'll collaborate with anyone - I love it. I say "Yes" to almost anything if there's an opportunity to learn something. For a specific answer: I've wanted to start a project with Sarah Hurwitz for a long time.

What was the last exhibition you saw and what did you think of it? "Andy Warhol: Portraits" at the Phoenix Art Museum. I was already a Warhol fan but the exhibition is great and the museum did a wonderful job designing the space to fit the work.

Though he typically produces wall pieces, Funkhouser is planning on experimenting with sculpture and light.
Though he typically produces wall pieces, Funkhouser is planning on experimenting with sculpture and light.
Mikey Estes

Upcoming Events

Jeff Koons or Marina Abramović and why? I don't know enough about Marina Abromović to truly comment. The Artist is Present is in my Netflix list though, I swear. A few years ago I enjoyed a Koons exhibition at LACMA, so he wins. There's plenty about his work and business that are repulsive, but I still respond to a room packed with over-the-top pop art.

What's the best advice you've ever received? "You just have to want it bad enough." One of my professors told me this when I asked how successful artists make it. It's simple, but over the years I've realized his statement was about sacrifice. There were many sacrifices to make toward a creative life (at least there were for me). Reminding myself I wanted it bad enough made it easier to pay the price of admission.

What are you currently working on? I'm in the early process phase for my next body of work - preliminary stuff like experimenting with paint and developing techniques from the results.

What's your most valued tool as an artist? Time, health, and experience. I need them to work in any medium and try to accumulate as much as possible.

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Use Current Location

Related Locations

miles
Eye Lounge

419 E. Roosevelt St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

602-430-1490

www.eyelounge.com

miles
Bokeh Gallery

214 E. Roosevelt St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

602-253-0339

www.bokehgallery.com

miles
The Clarendon Hotel - Phoenix's Urban Retreat

401 W. Clarendon Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85013

602-252-7363

www.goclarendon.com


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