Donna Dobberfuhl

From the age 3 on ART was on my mind, I proclaimed it so to my Mother.  Where did it come from? (I don't know), Why do I have to express myself in the visual form? (I'm not sure) but I do have some thoughts after practicing for many years.

 I have to pick up the charcoal, the rake tool, the paintbrush.  The charcoal comes first, its like sculpting on the flat,  making marks--blending and blending as if I'm pushing clay, creating shadow and light for that is what sculpture is, dark and light, highs and lows; letting the forms be read in a most expressive manner.

I love sculpting, making forms, expressing myself.  But I've learned long ago that making is not the final answer; but making things for others to see.  I do need for others to see, to own, to appreciate what comes from my hands.  I have a gift to give so therefore the gift must have a receiver.  Without the acceptance of the receiver I have only a place in the dark.

My career spanes some 21 decades.  First my work was simple in concept, practical forms for utilitarian use, then expressive panels in fired clay, each unique and primarily historically based.  From 3-D to relief technique; fired clay, cast bronze, glazes as paints and always featuring my works through art shows, selling and making a living.  I did win many awards too;  from purchase awards to recognition in government, military and on the National level . A few pieces placed in Museums, the subjects primarily depicting historical content.

1980 brought a pivital point in my career.  I discovered the ancient technique of relief sculpture in carved/molded brick.  A technique some 5000 years old.  "The Istar Gates" I found fascinating, from the relief work to the glazes.  Discovered also there was some limited work being done in this technique in the US.  A friend in the Masonry Institute guided me in the right direction and lead the way for me to master the relief technique of abstraction.  So I grabbed a pallet of raw brick, hauled it home and layed out the units for two small brick reliefs.  Practiced carving and accomplished the skill quickly.  The abstractive technique was just delightful.

One doesn't haul a finished brick relief to art shows especially with a small panel weighing in excess of a 1000lbs.  But at the same time the selling of works directly wasn't enough anymore either.  I needed something else; and expressing my work in large monumental designs was the answer.  So I entered the world of "Public Art".  The added benefits were many;  the ability to travel, first to meet with clients (committees and the communities) and second for the completion of the work at a brick plant somewhere, usually in a small town snuggled into a beautiful setting with friendly people. I learned well the means of interacting and understanding people and their desires. I worked with architects and master masons.  I learned more about humanity, about my place as an artist and what I could do to help a story to be told in a most permanent way.  This must have been the desire of early groups of people; expressing themselves through molding clay, painting in color and scatching/etching in relief on cave walls and great halls because we know these things are every where throughout the world. 

In 1994 I graduated cum laude from New York Academy of Art, Graduate School of Figurative Art.  This education afforded me the highest skills to express the figure in all of its forms; through the charcoal stick to the carving tool; from flat, 3-D and relief.  I love combining the figurative with abstraction; the two worlds of expression intermingling and contrasting one another.

Now today I have the special opportunity to express work from my own heart; I think this is the next chapter and I am so looking forward to it.  

The piece I am working on comes from the depths of despair.  It is called "Weeping Father".  The story was relayed to me many years ago.  It haunted me and never went away.  I expressed it through a fountain, an arching tube with the water as the tears.  Again I tried and drew, sculpted it in 3D and relief.  It was such a dark tale that I couldn't put it into final form to show it to the public.  But a person visited my studio, one who had experienced his own tragedy and he reversed the tale.  He saw the fallen figure and said that is where I was and then he pointed to the first figure which was standing and said there is where I am today..          

So now I am finishing the tale of "Weeping Father" complete in steel and bronze, in scale with the average person.  A piece of 3000lbs, five panels standing before you.  I am anxious to share the story. Knowing it will grab your heart, knowing you will collapse, but extending a hand, lifting you up so you may know triumph.  Accepting and embracing our own humanity and allowing others with their own tragedy to know that there is triumph, that there is always light when we choose to move the veil of darkness aside.

I am taking "Weeping Father" to one of the most attended art events in this country; "ArtPrize" an annual event held in Grand Rapids, Michigan this fall.  It is a monumental task and one that I need help in accomplishing.  It is 19 days long, open venues scattered throughout the city.  Visitors topping the 300,000 mark. This is were "Weeping Father" will touch the hearts of more people that I could ever accomplish in my career.

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