Earning a living making art is a red herring: One of those diversions that often lure creative people away from their true vision. Bayfield printmaker Ron Fundingsland has not fallen prey to the fickle art market. Instead, he has focused on his passion for the traditional art of printmaking to create what Museums, galleries and collectors find to be some of the most original and technically superb work produced today.
“The percentage of artists is so small that actually make a living from their art,” Fundingsland said as we sat in his carriage house studio in Bayfield. “I’m in it for the end game, the long term. I’m not concerned with making money from my art. I have to be true to myself and not care about the marketplace. I care about the work.”
His work is a form of etching that dates to the fourteenth century, but his subject matter is contemporary and contemplative, providing a commentary on American society and politics.
“In 1984, I started out with a blank resume,” Fundingsland told me.
He spent four years refining his technique and creating work before he approached a gallery.
“I knew I wanted to be in legitimate contemporary galleries. When I got around to showing people my work, everyone liked it. They said it was really original. If I’d shown them my work in those first few years, I don’t think I would have had the same response.”
Fundingsland believes that the isolation of Bayfield was good for him because he didn’t visit galleries and Museums and he wasn’t influenced by what other artists were doing and what was selling.
“For me, if you start doing work for other people, you cease being an artist,” Fundingsland said. “You become a craftsman or a tradesman when you make things for other people in order to make money.”
Though he is quick to add that he is not criticizing anyone who goes in that direction. It just isn’t the path for him. And he acknowledges that it takes longer to find the galleries and the people who will appreciate what he does. But he doesn’t worry about people not accepting his work.
“Rejection is a myth,” Fundingsland said. “It’s the wrong word. When you enter a juried show or approach a gallery, it is one person; maybe two that say the work isn’t going to work in their gallery. One person is making a decision about hundreds of pieces of work. How absurd to think everyone is going to like your work and how horrible would you feel if they did?”
It may not be everyone, but Fundingsland’s work seems to be liked by an impressive list of people. His prints are owned by the Denver Art Museum and the Seattle Museum of Art. This year, Fundingsland has been invited to participate in the Southern Graphics Council portfolio exchange exhibit appropriately titled: “Red Herring.”
Fundingsland has built an impressive resume, yet he still feels like a black sheep. He’s the only artist in “Red Herring” who does not work for a University or head a print department at an art school. He was a visiting artist at the University of Nebraska last year and is pursuing more opportunities to serve in that capacity at other schools.
Fundingsland’s velvet voice is more recognizable in the region than his art. He is the host of Tuesday night jazz on KSUT and plays music on Wednesdays. Fundingsland loves his day job. He has worked for the radio station for eleven years an average of four days a week.
Music finds its way into his work. He listens to new releases while working in his studio and then plays his favorites on Tuesday nights. Jazz aficionados may recognize song titles in some of his prints or find musical notes in the design.
“None of us can take ourselves so seriously that we think we are special,” Fundingsland said as I prepared to leave his jazz and art filled studio.
I am humbled by his words and his work, but I know that Ron Fundingsland is special. Very special.
firstname.lastname@example.org Leanne Goebel is a freelance writer specializing in the visual arts.
For more on Ron Fundingsland visit http://ronfundingsland.com
Through March 3, 2007
Tues-Sat, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Business of Art Center
513 & 515 Manitou Avenue
Manitou Springs, CO 80829
Through March 31
The Center for Book Arts
New York, NY
Feb. 5-March 8
Lewis Art Gallery
Kansas City Art Institute
March 31-May 30
Southwest School of Arts & Craft
San Antonio, TX