Artist Spotlight: Emily Dunlap

SWIC Art Faculty Exhibition
January 19 – February 23, 2017

Each Monday and Wednesday during the SWIC Art Faculty Exhibition, we will feature one of the exhibiting art instructors, including their artist statement and images of their works.

Obedience is a representation of a standard poodle ornamented by discarded bridal gowns.  The poodle is an iconic, domesticated breed with the reputation of high class and manicured grooming, usually assumed as feminine. I use lace and satin as the surface and texture of the poodle to make a connection with female ornamentation and domesticity. Here the relationship of dog and wife are interchangeable, but the addition of the training course emphasizes behavioral training. The dog show is a prime example of obedience, where man exerts dominance over dog and dog is trained to behave in certain ways. In this absurd collaboration of animal and bride I challenge this antiquated ideal of femininity, ownership, dominance, and property relations. I find the use of the poodle to be a humorous element to make these interpretations visual yet still playful.

Mama Says He’s the Best in Town plays on similar metaphors. An ATV is a utility vehicle used to get around in rural and undeveloped areas. This is a vehicle for transportation across all forms of terrain, yet mobility is still limited to property lines. I use the ATV to parallel the restrictions I see in the tradition of the “white wedding” where gender roles are voluntarily assumed and unquestioned. The elaborate ornamentation creates a spectacle to be displayed and admired where women are valued for their beauty and roles as wife and caregiver. To claim these roles is to claim power but to acknowledge the consequence of their boundaries. We perform in gender roles taught from childhood and often times are unaware of the roles that confine us. As women we are much more than our appearance and certainly more than an ornament but traditional roles are restrictive.

My work makes an honest commentary on the roles I continue to see in rural locations rooted in tradition. The awareness of inequalities that still exists is a powerful force in the way I think about myself and my place in the world. My work is delicate, feminine, and sometimes soft spoken, but the ideas behind them are enflamed with injustices. This work is a push for younger audiences of women and men to reject these gender associations, or at least question the norms so easily accepted.

Obedience, 2014
66” x 97 ½” x 15”
bridal gown and mixed media

Mama Says He’s the Best in Town, 2014
49” x 37” x 74”
bridal gown and mixed media


Dunlap’s “Mama Says He’s the Best in Town” (foreground)


Dunlap’s “Obedience”


Dunlap’s “Obedience” (right)

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