Dallas artist and North Lake College art professor Chris Bergquist Fulmer’s mixed media artwork is currently on view at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center through July 30, and it’s a must-see. But Fulmer’s work will also soon be in an even more “public” space — as one of the designers of the North Lake College DART station (scheduled to open on December 2012). The artist recently discussed her work and her insights on the Dallas/Forth Worth art scene with CBSDFW.com.

CBSDFW.com: What inspires your art?

Chris Fulmer: I am inspired first with design, composition, and organization.  As a child, I was fascinated with family quilts –how rotating, reversing, and aligning squares could make new designs.  Just as the varied and repetitive patterns of squares combine to create a complete quilt design, I am fascinated by texture and pattern as I work with squares.  Recently, I began experimenting with cement texture after working in Africa last year and seeing the mud-covered huts in Tanzania.  I loved the quality of age and use I saw in Italy’s walls and doors.  I prefer the textures of the common than those of the precious, everyday rather than exotic.

The content for these designs come from a variety of sources:  the history of the alphabet and how it is used, travel, literature and poetry, academic subject area, historical events, places of shelter, and mythology, for example. My current series, echoing my Texan heritage, explores the Wild West and cowboys.

CBSDFW.com: Can you tell us about Glossary, your exhibition at Fort Worth Community Arts Center?

CF:  Using squares, which sometimes form rectangles, I work with the design concept of active and passive space.  In the active space, I construct and attach images, collaged papers, original photographs, alphabetic letters, numbers, and objects.  The letters and numbers are based on my research into the Proto-Sinaic letters and their meanings.  The passive space is meditative and quiet; its focus is texture.  The three-dimensional found objects are “activators.” They are visual vehicles inviting the viewer to make a more physical connection to the imagery. The addition of common hardware contributes to the idea of strength and structure.

The title, Glossary, relates not only to the use of the alphabet in this body of work, but also to the idea that the materials and techniques of the work are related.  The materials, concepts, and techniques become the “vocabulary” of my art.

Chris Fulmer - Structure of Words

(courtesy of Chris Fulmer)

CBSDFW.com:  How did you get involved with designing the North Lake College DART Station?

CF:  I had admired the design of the DART stations for many years when I received an announcement that new artists were being sought for the Orange line.  I applied, was accepted, and was granted the North Lake College station. Not only did I have the fun of designing the station, but I also was able to collaborate with the other Orange Line artists as we agreed on common elements for each of the stations.

CBSDFW.com:  Was it difficult making the transition to designing the station from the kind of work that you do?

CF: One of the things I enjoyed most about designing the station was the challenge of creating with my design aesthetic but in a new way.  I spent many weeks looking at the site, researching ideas, and creating sketchbooks full of ideas.  It was a bit scary the day I took my sketches into a meeting with a dozen architects and professionals. The exhilaration happened when suddenly my sketches were lining the table and everyone was excitedly pointing to my ideas and finding their favorites!  Everyone, the DART architectural team and the community, was very supportive about having the station reflect my art aesthetics while I tried to design a station, which worked with the North Lake College’s architecture and the concepts they wanted (mesquite trees and education). It was a very difficult, intense, design period; but it was very rewarding.

CBSDFW.com:  How did you inject your own “personal touches” to the design of the station?

CF:  My personal touch was the symbolism as it worked into the over-all design composition of the station. I wanted the totality of the station to hold together design-wise so I employed a giant spiral that circles out through the pavers and landscaping.  The spiral is a symbol for growth, a perfect idea for a college.  The curves are punctuated throughout with a point-grid system of small squares. The square is a symbol for stability.  The mesquite tree will be found in the landscape, in the column cladding, and on the windscreen images.  Not only is the mesquite part of the original North Lake College landscape, it symbolizes the growth of the college student from the depth of its roots (faculty and knowledge) to the strength of its wood and the beauty of silhouette, none being the same as another.  There will be a quiet place for students to rest, a Philosopher’s Garden, in the center of the landscape; and randomly placed through-out will be pavers engraved with the names of people important to fields of study at North Lake College.

Chris Fulmer - Cow Speak

(courtesy of Chris Fulmer)

CBSDFW.com: What do you think of the art scene in Dallas and Fort Worth? Do you see a lot of emerging talent here? Is there a supportive community for artists in DFW?

CF:  There is so much happening in the art world in DFW that it is impossible to see it all, go to all of the openings, visit all of the museums, and attend all of the events!  Every time I travel and I wonder at the beauty of art in other places, I always reflect back on what we have here in our area and am impressed with our large collection of highly regarded museums and exciting commercial, design, and non-profit galleries.

As a professor of art, I daily see students with enthusiasm, excitement, and potential.  This is reflected in their achievements when graduating from the art departments at local universities.

There are very supportive communities for the arts here. Fort Worth Community Arts Center, where my exhibition Glossary is held, is one example where artists can see art, exhibit art, and take classes.  EASL (Emergency Artist Support League), a non-profit organization which support artists in need, is another example of how artists come together for a cause but gain friends and connections as a reward.

Glossary: Work by Chris Fulmer is currently on view at the Gallery at Clifton Capital Building (5201 Camp Bowie Boulevard, Fort Worth, TX; 817-298-3021), a satellite gallery of the Fort Worth Community Arts Center through July 30, 2011. Learn more about Chris’ work by visiting her website.

Interview by Stephanie Valera, CBS Local