Interviews

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

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.

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.

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.