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Interview: Dale Voelker

"Dual Filter Does It" by Dale Voelker

1. Could you introduce yourself? Where are you from, and where did you attend school? How did you learn to create art, and when did you first come to see yourself as an artist?

Hi, my name is Dale Voelker and I am an artist living in Southern California. I also run a graphic design business that focuses on the music business. I was born and raised in the Los Angeles area and received a Bachelor of Arts in Art and Design from the California State University system. When did I see myself as an artist? From my perspective now…I think I have always been an artist. As a child, I remember doodling on everything from textbooks to paper placemats at restaurants. But I was educated that an “artist” was something special and not something everyone could be. Everyone could make art, but not necessarily be an “artist.”

"Brilliant Life Like Color" by Dale Voelker

2. For your current body of work, where do you find influences in terms of style, technique, and subject matter? Is Robert Rauschenberg’s assemblages a source of your inspirations?

Yes, Robert Rauschenberg is one of my primary influences. Especially the way he lived his art practice with vigor and thrived on the unexpected and discovery. And, Andy Warhol—the way he pushed pop culture and commentary into his work. My fascination with color developed in my 20s, when I was using Photoshop as a designer and was able explore saturation and techniques I saw used in screen printing. Then I wanted to create some of the effects I created digitally in my work—traditionally with analog images and washes.

"Where Will The Teenage Dance Craze" by Dale Voelker

3. When did you make a breakthrough to your current style from your previous style (the two appear dramatically different)?

I currently juggle three different types of work—paint & collage, wax & collage and color field canvases. And within those, I currently explore different styles of work. For the collage work, I think the breakthrough was getting the technique with washes down and being able to manipulate the printed material as background, middle or foreground.

"Control Button" by Dale Voelker

4. What is the key idea or message that you are trying to explore or investigate through your work involving the use of texts and found images? What do you think texts say about the society that they originated from (whether they are Western or Eastern) or the author(s) who wrote those texts?

My work is about creating a “history” with images and color. With collage, I can explore layers of history and hopefully create work that people can find new things each time they sit with it. I feel I try to dance around the messages in the text. Sometimes they are highlighted, but usually not. I try to stay away from using big headlines of famous events. They end up dominating the piece and limit the viewer’s opinion. But I do enjoy using old or dated language from newspaper ads and stories for the titles of the pieces—“Housewife Gets Degree,” “Mrs. Hopkins Proudly Displays The New Refrigerator,” and “Where Will The Teen-age Dance Craze Lead?”

"Shop 10AM to 9:30PM" by Dale Voelker

5. Why do you choose texts from American and/or Western culture, as opposed to Eastern or African cultures? In the texts, visually and in terms of thought, do you perceive structures that define the American and/or Western culture, or do you reject such structures as socially made up things that have no inherent meaning or value? Do you try to find new meaning by combining and contrasting multiple texts, or do you find that a deeper meaning is not necessary in your work?

My current work does not confront those issues. I use what is available to me at libraries and garage sales. Most of the text I use is English, but I have also used Spanish, Chinese and Japanese. Most of the text ends up being weathered to such a degree it is no longer legible—through layering, sanding and painting—I try to create a “history.”

"A Show For Adult Adults" by Dale Voelker

6. Are you an idealist? If not, are you a pessimist? Or are you an idealist who is also a realist? What do you think about the idealism of the modern era that gave birth to Abstract Expressionism in art and Structuralism in philosophy (and also World War I)? Is your work engaged with the modernist ideas and imagery, that there is a structure to human thought and culture, or is it actually postmodern, engaging in critiques of those modern ideas and institutions?

I’m and idealist with realist values I guess? My work has a Pop Art philosophy to the world—highlighting history with humor. My materials and subject matter have modernist ideas I guess. I am drawn to the reaction to “the end of the world” and “does life mater?” in Abstract Expressionism work, although I don’t always confront them in a direct obvious way.

"Honeymoon In The Orient" by Dale Voelker

7. How important is the visual aspect of your work, apart from the meaning? How does the use of texts and found images give visual depth to your work? How do you control color and composition in the process of creating collages?

Currently the visual is the driving punch of my work. I seem to favor intense color while balancing layers of paper and paint. The layering with color sometimes doesn’t work, but just ends up adding more layers to build up on top of or scrape off. The printed material adds interest and discovery—something new to discover at each viewing.

"1 Button Control To Start Trim" by Dale Voelker

8. Is abstraction an important part of your work? Should abstraction matter more to the viewer or to you than the meaning of the work? Or is your work about the careful balance between the two - abstraction and reading of the text? Does the balance add greater depth and dynamism to your work?

My current work is based on abstraction. The narrative is very subtle—sometimes it might be just for me? Collectors tell me they are interested with the layers of hidden text and figuring out what they are about. I’m going for the layered decayed look of a city wall with poster remains and covered up graffiti.

"500 Monster Battle War" by Dale Voelker

9. For your future works, do you have interest in incorporating texts from other cultures, such as the Egyptian hieroglyphs, Chinese calligraphy, Slavic alphabets, or Korean alphabets? How would your work differ in terms of content and visuals if you went down that route? How would it remain the same?

I love to use text from different cultures, weathering and cropping to highlight their graphic characteristics. It ends up becoming more of a pattern.

10. What is next for you in your evolution as an artist? Where do you see yourself in 10 or 20 years?

I see my work developing away from flat rectangular shapes and moving into working on discarded objects and irregular forms. My work 5 years ago is quite different from what I am producing now—so the future should be exciting!

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