HUE Gallery of Contemporary Art HUE Gallery of Contemporary Art

Dallas Dodge

How does a former rodeo clown, born in rural Kansas and raised in a cowboy lifestyle become interested in becoming an artist? After all it is a stretch from bulls to Brancusi. Even as a child I had an irresistible urge to create, and that, coupled with being born in the 50’s – the baby boomergeneration – allowed me to have all of the influences of mid-century modern design, the psychedelic 60’s, Robert Crumb, Mad magazine, and Ed Big Daddy Roth. In grade school, arts and crafts hour was the highlight of my day. I never wanted to stop and put away the construction paper, scissors, and glue. My first real exposure to art, other than calendars and magazine illustrations, was the Wichita Art Museum’s 30-foot mobile art gallery that toured at schools throughout Kansas. I remember walking up the steps and popping my head into a trailer (with beige carpet walls) and seeing these unusual paintings and small bronze sculptures. It was strange to my eyes and I liked it. In 1970 I entered high school, taking my very first of what turned out to be four years of art classes from Mr. Robert Aikens. He had a big influence on my life. Not only did he teach me techniques, he opened my eyes to the world of the artist maker through his own work, slide lectures and field trips. After graduating from high school my future was up in the air. I thought I would get a job, marry my high school sweetheart, and maybe even get a pilot’s license. But, as fate would have it, I took a road trip with some friends that were going to enroll at Emporia State. I decided to ride along, and that decision changed the course of my life. In those days each of the university’s schools would set up a table with class cards in a large room, and students would go to the tables to pick up their cards for the classes they wanted. To kill time while waiting for my friends to finish, I decided to talk to some of the counselors at the tables. I looked around and the man sitting at the school of art table didn’t look all that busy, so I walked over and sat down to visit with him, having no intention of enrolling. I remember that the man at the table had paint all over his hands, a large bushy mustache, and a personality bigger than life. He turned out to be the head of the art department, Professor Rex Hall. He proceeded to enroll me in classes and before I knew it I had my schedule lined up for my freshman year at Emporia State. Art school in the 70’s was a fantastic and enjoyable time in my life. People were experimenting with everything and I do mean everything. It was a total re-think of how art could be made. To say that art school made a lasting impression on me is an understatement. I studied under some very talented professors with a wide range of disciplines and styles. They provided me with a strong foundation and in December of 1978 I received a bachelor of fine arts degree. While at Emporia I met my first wife at an art department party. We married in 1979 and moved to Wichita, Kansas. I applied and was accepted into the graduate program at Wichita State University where I majored in ceramics with a minor in printmaking. I maintained a 3.5 grade point overage and completed 43 hours toward a 60-hour master of fine arts before getting sideways with the head of the ceramics department who placed me on probation for a year. To add to my problems my wife filed for divorce around the same time. I floundered for a few years doing odd jobs, even selling cars. I eventually went to work for a picture framing company travelling five states selling picture frame molding. I still had the desire to make art and I was constantly inspired by the art that I saw in my traveling job. But, I was on the road five days a week and weekends were the only time I had to get ready for the next work week, run errands and make art. It was during this period that I purchased a small electric kiln and started making my own molds for slip casting ceramics. I could fill the molds with slip, go do a load of laundry, and then come back later to pop them out of the molds. The newly formed pieces would dry during the week while I was gone and then I could bisque fire them on the weekend. Then I would glaze them the following week and with drawing and painting in between this was my work cycle, which fit in well with my lifestyle. A few years later I met my current wife of thirty years, Melody. We have three sons together. I never returned to finish my MFA degree, but I have continued to make art all my adult life except for periods during our child rearing years. Making art, reading about art, constantly looking at art, and seeing art in everyday things, coupled with my personal history makes me the artist that I am today.

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