Dustan Knight, who is teaching Floral Painting
and Drawing for Teens this semester, is a very active, hard working career
painter with 3 upcoming shows in the works. In June she shows at Art Stream
Gallery in Rochester with new work. In July she is represented with her
watercolors in a 2 person show at Bowersock Gallery in Provincetown MA, and in
August she has a watercolor exhibit at Three Graces Gallery in Portsmouth NH.
Dustan was nice enough to come by for a cup of
tea and talk to me about her education, inspiration, teaching, and her career
and relationship with galleries.
Dustan Knight, one of the best educated artists
I know, has acquired an illustrious education; Philips Exeter Academy, Duke
University with dual majors in Fine Arts and English, Pratt with dual majors in
Art History and Studio Painting, and Boston University with her Masters in Art
History. As a result of the world of information she has acquired, she can
speak eloquently about art- any kind- for as long as you listen. She is also a
bit of a performer and is very comfortable in the classroom. After years of
teaching at the New Hampshire Institute of Art and other liberal and art
colleges she now prefers teaching workshops and more innovative classes. Her
teaching goal - to make students excited enough about art they will keep
creating their work long after the class has ended. While demanding at certain
levels, and wanting to see her students improve, she feels painting should be
fun and that anything can be an inspiration. Dustan is adamant about the
necessity of keeping art in the schools and feels that the future will be owned
by the artistically inclined.
I asked Dustan how she goes about choosing a
gallery. She looks for a generous, reciprocal relationship and acknowledgement
that the gallery and the artist are on the same team with the same objectives.
She appreciates a gallery that has confidence in her and also has patience with
her since creativity is not always on tap. Besides her excellent relationships
with Three Graces Gallery and the Bowersock Gallery, she exhibits with Art 3 in
Manchester. She tries to approach these business relationships as
professionally as possible.
I was curious about the subject and medium
transitions I have seen with Dustan's work over the years of our acquaintance.
She's a painter who has expressed herself in a number of voices, mediums, and
styles. Her artistic sensibility was influenced by her post graduate years in
NYC when the Expressionist movement reined with the belief that art should be a
passionate statement from the artist’s innermost self. Her early work was very
large, dark, and abstract and expressive with literary influences that included
the Existentialists like Samuel Beckett and T.S. Eliot. Her work, viewed
through a romantic perception of life, was exquisitely gloomy, depicting lost,
tragic images of modern man. When she left the city. moved back to NH, got
married and had children she landed squarely in her present.She cast aside doubt and began acting
intentionally. "Unlike existential man, afraid to act because of
consequences, a woman with dependents realizes it is not fair to be self
indulgent and needs to step up to the plate, clean up the cat poop, and do the
dishes", says Dustan. Being freed from that paralyzed, existential state
allowed her work to become joyful as expressed in her large, vibrant
The artist's choice of watercolor as her
primary medium is surprising for such intellectual expressive thinker. She has
had to invent her own techniques. Because watercolor is often not taken as
seriously as works on canvas, she researched ways to laminate watercolors to
panels, applying acrylic medium to protect the surfaces. This innovative
technique allows her pieces to be presented without that protective,
obfuscating layer of glass, so her paintings can go very big and have a large
presence. Her process makes the medium less obtrusive allowing her to focus on
image, color design and movement.
Dustan's inspiration and artistic challenge
come from many sources. She is thrilled to be takingan Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) class. Large commissions
for public spaces such as her recently completed percent for arts at Manchester
Community Colleges Library challenge her to try new mediums and even larger
formats.Dustan says she thought she
was an intimate painter, but now finds great reward in being able to affect
anonymous populations with commissioned art work. Hospitals especially interest
her as providing an honorable way to help a vulnerable audience through the
external stimulus of art.
Currently Dustan is writing a textbook geared
towards teaching teachers to teach watercolor, and hopefully setting standards
for good teaching methods. Sheis
also in the early stages of establishing a New Hampshire Watercolor Society as
an online resource for New England.