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Bill Dunlap presents “Confessions of an Itinerant Painter” at Randolph College

Renowned artist Bill Dunlap shared a different approach toward making and experiencing art while visiting Randolph College recently. In a lecture punctuated with humor, he also shared a unique definition of art.

“It’s doing the difficult and making it look easy,” Dunlap told Randolph faculty and students gathered for his lecture. “There’s an art to everything. There’s an art to war. There’s an art to cooking.”

Bill Dunlap, second from the left, visits with Randolph community members.

Dunlap visited Randolph on March 19 to participate in art classes and tell students about his artistic career, which has spanned more than four decades. He toured the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College, spoke to a class on post-war art at the Maier, visited students as they drew animals at a local animal shelter, and delivered a public talk titled “Confessions of an Itinerant Painter.”

Alumnae Susan Braselton Fant ‘84 and Katharine “Kitty” Stark Caldwell ‘74, who are friends of Dunlap, attended the lecture. Fant and her husband, Ruff, funded Dunlap’s visit and lecture.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” Dunlap said. “I wanted to be an artist before I knew what one was.” When he was young, he began sketching family photographs. Later, while teaching art, he used his time on sabbatical to rent a studio and start making art. He so enjoyed the experience enough that he decided to pursue art full time.

He showed the audience many of his works of art and explained the ideas they represent. “I like to think that I paint pictures about things, not of things,” he said.

Ruff Fant, Susan Braselton Fant ’84, Bill Dunlap, Susan Klein, Randolph
College President John E. Klein, and Katherine Kitty Stark Caldwell ’74

Many of his paintings portray landscapes inspired by scenes along U.S. 29, a highway that runs through rural Virginia and connects several cities, including Lynchburg. He referred to these paintings as “hypothetical realism.” “These things aren’t real, but they could be,” he said.

The Blue Ridge Mountains, visible from the Randolph College campus, also find their way into many of his paintings—even when he paints scenes set in other countries. “It’s my world; I’ll do what I want with it,” he said.

Other recurring themes are his relatives, dogs, and stylistic renderings of a Rembrandt self-portrait. Dunlap said this variety of content sometimes leads to faulty interpretations of meanings behind his work. “I’m not complaining that I’m misunderstood, but they miss me all the time,” he said. “A lot of people these days write a thesis and then go find art that illustrates the thesis. I think they ought to look at the art and see what it’s trying to say.”

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