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Dan Gunderson: A Toy Story

Gunderson-red&greenDan Gunderson, professor of art at Stetson University for 38 years, will open his latest, unique art exhibit at a public opening reception on Friday, March 21, at 6 p.m., at the Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland, Fla. The “Site Specific” exhibition featuring the works of two outstanding artists from Central Florida, including the artworks of Barbara Sorensen from Winter Park, will run March 22 through June 7.  

Having worked mainly in ceramics for 30 years, Gunderson is taking a decidedly different approach to his art with this installation. In this exhibit, Gunderson’s artworks are made up of pictures of toys. Gunderson completed his works by arranging thousands of toys collected from McDonald’s “Happy Meals”™ into mandala shapes, and then photographed them from an aerial viewpoint.

Gunderson has always enjoyed collecting old vintage toys. When his children were young, he would buy the children’s meals for the toys. Once his children had grown, Gunderson began to try to find ways to use the many toys he had collected. He wants to spark the viewer’s memories. “By incorporating characters from everyone’s youth, like SpongeBob™ and Spiderman™,” he said, “the works inspire a sense of nostalgia in the viewers.”

GundersonToyShelvesGunderson compares his works to “a galaxy; a big picture of small, individual things.” In his new works, Gunderson plays with both abstract and figurative ideas.

“Initially looking at the pictures, the viewer sees an abstract design,” he said. “But upon closer inspection, the viewer can see small figurative objects.”

In the photo, right, Gunderson continues to save and categorize the many toy figures he has collected for this and other future projects.

Gunderson claims to have rediscovered himself as an individual by exploring new techniques and venues for his art. “Working on these pieces has been an experience of self-discovery for me,” he said. He wants to “share his celebration of life” with the viewer.

“I’d like to thank Stetson for the opportunity to develop my own creative ideas that bring forth a first-hand experience to teaching.” Gunderson has had solo exhibitions in several major cities in the United States, including New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

To view Gunderson’s new collection, visit the Polk Museum of Art, located at 800 East Palmetto Street, Lakeland, Fla., between March 22 and June 7.

Read the feature on Gunderson and his art in the January/March 2014 issue of OnViewMagazine.com.

Visit Dan Gunderson’s website to learn more about the artist and his work.

This weekend at Stetson’s Hand Art Center, the 2014 Studio Arts Senior Thesis Exhibition opens with a public reception, 6-8 p.m., Saturday, March 22. The exhibition, featuring artworks by Gisela Fernandez, Rachel Mathes, Megan Molle, Venezha Noriega, Ashleigh Stuart and Sam Valdez, will run until Saturday, April 5. The public is invited, free of charge.

Stetson University’s Hand Art Center is located in the university’s Palm Court, at 139 E. Michigan Ave. It is open Monday – Friday 11 a.m.-4 p.m., and Saturdays noon-4 p.m. It is closed during university holidays. For more information, please contact Tonya Curran, director of the Hand Art Center at tcurran@stetson.edu, or call (386) 822-7271. Visit Stetson’s Department of Creative Arts for information on the university’s Arts, Theatre Arts, Digital Arts and Humanities programs.

by Allison Cooper