With just 17 works, one would expect the “What I Wish I Would Have Known” art exhibition at McPherson College to be a small one.
But visitors to the show will probably be initially struck by the sheer size of Joel T. Dugan’s paintings – most are huge at least four feet tall and four or five feet wide. One work that stretches 30 feet long across six canvases is so large, in fact, that it had to be grouped into three separate sections.
With a closer look, these images could easily claim an hour or more as a visitor picked out all the interesting and unusual details: A swimmer dissolving from the head down. Floating, intense eyes. Smoke drifting across the canvas without any clear source.
Wayne Conyers, professor of art, said that while most of Dugan’s work is surreal – in the same vein as Salvador Dali, M.C. Escher or René Magritte – his paintings also tell engaging, human stories.
“He tantalizes you,” Conyers said. “If it draws you in, it’s got you for a while.”
Dugan is a professional artist – primarily as a painter – and an assistant professor of painting at Fort Hays State University. He holds a long list of national exhibition credits and has completed a variety of public and corporate art commissions, including for Ford Motor Company and the State of Michigan.
In his artist statement for the show, Dugan said he strives to go beyond a realistic depiction of scenes and create art that feels more like dreams or a half-remembered event.
“By creating imaginative and surrealistic imagery, my paintings explore the perception of experiences, rather than just reality,” he said. “Imagination and memory melt together in a weave, bonding what is known and what is imagined to create personal truth.”
Conyers praised Dugan’s fantastic use of color, his handling of human figures and emotion, and his high degree of technical skill in his artistry. With such talent and ability, Conyers said that Dugan could make even mundane subjects engaging.
“Joel could do a painting of a banana and an apple next to each other and it would be incredible,” Conyers said.
“What I Wish I Would Have Known” is on display now in Friendship Hall on the campus of McPherson College and will be up through Sept. 22. The public is also invited to a closing reception that evening, currently planned to begin at 7 p.m.
More pictures of Dugan’s work and information about him is available at www.joeltdugan.com.