2017 National Mature Media Award WINNER

2017 National Mature Media Award WINNER
The Creative Landscape of Aging Wins a NMMA Award!


Monday, September 16, 2013

An Interview with DONNA MC CULLOUGH: Creative Recycling through Artful Welding

You started drawing early. What do you most remember about your beginning creative years?
I remember seeing Degas bronze dancer with the fabric skirt at the Baltimore Museum of Art. That piece definitely influenced my work!
Grand mom taught us how to cross stitch and other needlework. We were always working on something and have many ribbons from submitting our art work in the County Fairs. I also loved to draw horses and sketched all over my notebooks and art pads. Now I have horses and do sculptures of them.
My mom painted and gave art classes in our home and Dad did woodworking. Art was everywhere around us. She sewed and taught me to sew and I began making my own clothes in 9th grade.

Your female artistic influencers as you grew up were family since your grandmother, mother and sister were artists. Did everyone work differently in different mediums or in a similar venue?
My sister and I were encouraged early on. My mother, grandmother and great grandmother were all artists. One of my great grandmother’s paintings of strawberries in a wooden bowl hung in my grandmother’s dining room. Grand mom painted china and did needlework. Mom painted and now makes jewelry also. My sister was a graphic designer and painter and now teaches painting and drawing at Youngstown University. I started painting and drawing and ended up doing sculpture.

You were employed as a staff designer working in retail packaging for many years before having a “aha” moment which triggered your study of welding and ushered you in the world of 3 dimensions. In a way, this also revealed your talents similar to your father’s in carpentry. How did you take that artistic leap from 2 D to 3D, from creating classic art to creating mechanical art?
I still am a graphic designer/art director three days a week. These are very long days with a very long commute.

I never realized that connection to my dad’s carpentry. I can figure out most projects on my own; I somehow have the three dimensional sense to work forms out. I don’t need to draw or build diagrams or miniatures.Perhaps it's because I know my subjects well: female forms and animals…horses, dogs and chickens.
As far as making the leap, it took me a bit to overcome the fear factor of welding. I started doing oxy acetylene which has an open flame and looks much scarier than mig (metal inert gas) welding which I do now. But, I knew that this was a core need that I developed so I stuck to it. I work by myself and sometimes just the weight of some of the pieces makes it difficult to deal with. Those are the times I think I should go back to painting! I do all the hauling and installations for my shows also and wonder how long I will be able to do it.

Many of your female dress pieces depict contradictions in elements. It could be a metal bodice and a tulle skirt or a metal bodice and an unfilled metal frame skirt or the drill team series which plays on the concepts of both an oil drill and a cheerleader drill. Do you think of these concepts before beginning your piece? Do you sketch or plan your form before creating it?
I do not normally sketch out dresses. I do have ideas when I start a project. Sometimes a piece starts when I choose an interesting piece of metal that I feel lends itself to a bodice and start from there. Sometimes I do the top part and then decide what would work best as the skirt. Each piece is totally different. The pieces I do actually plan are the Drill Team girls (the oil and gas can pieces). The material (oil cans) is difficult to find so I really think before I start cutting the metal. I also try to figure out what I will use for the skirt before I start the top part.
One example of how things begin is a piece called Belle Epoche. This is a horse piece. I was cleaning out my locker in a studio that I rent and found two pieces of metal from an old grass catcher from a commercial lawn mower. These pieces were what was left from another time I had used part of it. The shape of the pieces reminded me of a horse neck. So, that is how that piece was born.

Do you actively seek to recycle elements in your art or is it serendipitous?
I think the answer to the question is both. I love to create new objects out of totally unusual materials. I have a dress in my current show called Heat Wave. She is created from an old oil heater that a friend was throwing out. I actually jumped into the large dumpster and hauled it out! I attached the label from the oil heater to the back of her dress. A bit of humor.
I started using what I found because I did not have the money or know how to find or buy what I needed. This directed the style of my pieces and now I am known for that look. I acquire pieces by finding them on the road, scrap yards, friends, goodwill, ebay etc.

Your love of animals is reflected in your art of horses, dogs and various fowl. Do you prefer to work in a series like the female form or to create individual sculptures like the animals?
I mostly create the dress series because they are often what the galleries want. I used to do some dresses, then work on animals. I enjoy trying to plan on creating dresses/animals/dresses/animals alternatively.

Looking ahead, what are you visions and goals for further developing your art now that you are only months away from being 60?
I plan on working on life size horse pieces. I also anticipate creating more pieces that will actually hang on the wall. I want to expand my reach, get my work into more galleries, and somehow combine art and traveling.

1 comment:

  1. This is my 'American sister' Donna McCullough and I'm very proud to have know her when she was just eighteen, studying Arts, and showing her special love for horses through her drawings!
    Thanks God for the chance of meeting her and this family of artists!
    I wish her the best luck,