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Artist Profile: Bulsby “Buzz” Duncan

“Art is a time machine. A work of art will always be there.” Buzz Duncan knows that 10 people will have 10 different interpretations, but the painting remains the same. His story will be unchanged.

He doesn’t usually chase a story. It comes to him. He “feeds off things.” Wherever he is, he is open to what he sees and feels. Usually, he sees something that strikes him in a particular way and he has to get it down in paint. But occasionally he decides on a topic, like the pandemic, and needs to make his personal interpretation.

Bulsby Buzz Duncan. photo by artist

However he begins, his art is always about energy. He is not hesitant to experiment with the styles and techniques of those who came before him. The list of influences begins with Basquiat, Jackson Pollack, Picasso, and Sam Gilliam—the Washington Color School.

Color may be the true subject of his work, regardless of the famed styles. He wants it to get your attention. No shrugs. No yawns. He makes it hard to walk past. He wants questions, conversations. He doesn’t believe in perfect art. “The mistake is not accepting that the ‘flawed’ stroke is the reason the image comes to life.”

After his initial explosion phase, he is now trying to “lay it out…be more patient,” which is resulting in more pensive pieces like the boys sitting up against the fence. They are “just kickin’ it.”  Looking at the world. Taking it in.

He is open more and more to faces—not formal portraits so much as how people appear in real life in real time.  In this way, each painting will indeed be a time machine.

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art
You don’t see many children depicted in art, except maybe those cute quasi-erotic cupids in religious art. They tend to be on the naughty side and I suspect the artists snuck them in under false pretenses.

Duncan Tribal 1, 40×30, Acrylic. photo by artist

But real-life human children? Young people just being young people? Looking, watching, wondering—learning how to survive—and sharing the newness and wonder of it all? Not much. It’s a shame. There is so much beauty in childhood. Most of it is the light in their eyes—the link to the amazement of the universe.

If you watch a child or a teenager watching you, you know there’s much going on in those heads. You remember doing that. Your brain was running up and down the scales of human awareness—human impulses—human understanding. It’s the junction of human nature and individuality.  Or as Buzz Duncan said about the boys at the fence: “Just kickin’ it.” It’s kids as people.

Duncan Brothers. 36×48, MixedMedia. photo by Greg Staley

We adults usually just look, not watch. We miss so much meaning. It is the same with looking at art. Rarely more than a glance. Art, real art, is not a picture or a statue—it’s a value—a concept—something that can lift you into another world. You can’t get there without emotions—not the ordinary ones—but the shocks and traumas that build up over time and experience.

We all have those, don’t we? Those surprise personal disasters that knock us off our feet, or the shockwaves of national or international social earthquakes that roll over us like a tsunami. That’s when we want to go back to being that child, watching and wondering, with the light of universal amazement in our eyes—reaching for the secrets of eternity.

Duncan Playing for Keeps. 36×48, Acrylic. photo by artist

At  the Galleries:

Sheila Blake
Foundry Gallery
2118 – 8th Street, N.W.
– Oct. 30
Recep: Oct. 1, 4 – 7:30
“Memory Is a Funny Thing” is a new exhibit by Sheila Blake. She has begun to paint her memoir, inviting the spirits of her former life—stumbling through cultural landscapes. The scenes come from old snapshots, where every painting is close to a rebirth. www.foundrygallery.com

Capitol Hill Art League (CHAL)
Hill Center, DC
921 Penn. Av., SE
To Jan. 8
This is the Capitol Hill Art League Juried Exhibition at the Hill Center with over 35 CHAL artists. As usual, you will find a wide variety of mediums and viewpoints…and of course, excellence. The entire gallery is both online and in-person.

This exhibit was organized by the Capitol Hill Art League (CHAL), which is a program of the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop.  CHAW was created years ago to promote all the arts including classes for children and adults, performance and art exhibitions. The Art League promotes juried and non-juried shows inside their own gallery space at 545 7th Street, SE, and other venues in the area including the Hill Center. The artwork is for sale in each show—an excellent way for artists to reach a broad art buying public. For more information: www.caphillartleague.org.

Looking ahead a month, the Hill Center will host the finished art of the “8th & I Young Marines.” The opening is November 2, from 5 to 7. This is an award-winning program for boys and girls between the ages of eight and eighteen.  It’s truly a wonderful program—check it out. hillcenterdc.org/galleries.

American Painting Fine Art
5125 MacArthur Blvd., NW #17
To Oct. 8
This is a large and enriched show of 23 artists with over 50 paintings. While landscape is the major focus, there is a wide range of topics and approaches to the genre. Two works by Bulsby “Buzz” Duncan are included (see “Artist Profile.) The gallery show will end October 8, but it will remain online. www.classicamericanpainting.com

A Capitol Hill artist and writer, Jim can be reached at Artandthecity05@aol.com

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