A Window Into The Wild
I paint animals because wild creatures present themselves simply as they are. Theirs is a raw beauty without artifice, the primordial connection with life clearly visible. In this connection, I encounter my own humanity at a deeper level. My portraits portray animals in a respectful way, aware of their otherness, avoiding any trace of nostalgia or sentimentality. The background is devoid of details: nothing distracts the viewer from the animal and its presence. I emphasize the eyes, their gaze directed at the viewer as if to say, Look at me. I am as alive as you are. I have needs just as you do. I feel that someone needs to represent them—to create a bridge, to be their voice in a society that continually disconnects us from nature and its inhabitants.
Though I am always in search of realism, I find the wild to be very mysterious, and I choose to echo this by leaving certain passages untold, unclear, less rendered. Drama and chiaroscuro are important to me in creating this sense of mystery. I believe painting to be one of the most beautiful of human expressions, and I feel I have an enormous responsibility to say with my brush what cannot be said with words. In the studio, I can be myself, express myself and the larger, divine force that I feel moves through my hands on a deep level. From the beginning, my paintings have been—and still are—an invitation to look outside one’s own window and into the wild.
About Christina Dunzinger
From her earliest years, Dunzinger has taken both respite and refuge in creative practice. She drew constantly as a little girl, able to see perspective and proportions accurately and easily. Her work was always a few years ahead of the standard set by other children her age. As she matured and her life expanded, a series of traumatic events drew the innately sensitive Dunzinger deeper into her emotional world; art became her refuge. Her studio quickly became the only place she could let go of her protective aspects, embracing vulnerability and authentic expression. I started using art as a way to heal my soul, she explains. Soon I realized it was my way to stay sane. This is why content in art is so important to me; in a world flooded with empty images, I strive to charge my paintings with emotion, meaning, and purpose.
Dunzinger’s tendency to seek this meaning and authenticity in nature stems from these same patterns and personal experiences. She loves to watch animals in the wild, finding comfort in the rawness and complete honesty of their presence. Unlike many aspects of our human world, these animals are without artifice: brutal, beautiful, and wild. To hide or misrepresent any part of their nature would be impossibly foreign to them, outside their mode of experience.
Dunzinger's primary objective with her creative work is to connect humans with animals. She strives to establish awareness of nature’s importance, for our own survival as well as theirs. This sentiment is behind her choice to present her subjects in a neutral, atmospheric space: nothing prevents the viewer from focusing on the presence of this particular creature. Just like in Caravaggio's paintings, she allows the drama to unfold through her use of light. Wildlife is by nature dramatic, life and death closely intertwined. She believes there is an ancestral memory of the wild in us, and that the subtle trade of souls that takes place when gazing at a painting can help us to remember and connect.
It generally takes Dunzinger more than a month to complete a painting. She works in layers using “Old Master” techniques, carefully building up the painting, leaving certain areas of each previous layer exposed as she moves on. Behind each painting, there are multiple hours of research, sketching, and studies. Before I apply any paint to my canvas, she explains, I have studied the animal thoroughly. I have chosen its posture and placement, the focal point, the intended path of the viewer's eye through the painting, the color and direction of the light. As the layers bring the animal forward, I listen: I let the essence of the animal dictate what it wants to say, how it wants to be represented.
Dunzinger is happiest when she is outdoors hiking, taking photos, and drawing. Her studio is inside a working barn where she paints surrounded by animals. After long studio sessions, she goes outside to "talk" with her horses: Horses are very intuitive creatures—they are my best friends. If I am stuck on a painting, I only need to be with them for a while, and all my tension disappears. I can go back to the studio with a clearer mind, able to solve the problem and continue painting.
Dunzinger often painted birds and other animals in California, where she still spends a great deal of time, but when she moved to Park City with her husband, she found the beauty of the mountains and the abundance of wildlife to be powerful in an entirely new way. The valleys covered in snow remind her of the palette in Andrew Wyeth’s paintings. During her hikes, she sees the animals that her favorite artists paint, bringing to mind the work of Carl Rungius, Robert Bateman, George McLean, Carl Brenders, and Greg Beecham. Her home is filled with objects collected from the many places she has visited. The walls are covered in art, and shelves hold an impressive collection of books. Photos of her children and grandchildren inhabit every wall, and the guest rooms are always ready for their next visit. She lives surrounded by nature and loves to watch moose in the meadow, or the white tail deer who forage outside her window, coming down from the mountains in early summer to eat her grass and take naps with their fawns under her pine trees.
Born in 1960, Christina Dunzinger grew up thinking of herself as an artist from her earliest years. As a left-handed child at a strict Catholic school, she was forced to turn her paper upside down for the right-handed calligraphy nibs to work properly. She quickly learned to write backwards with the aid of a mirror, and was soon able to write interchangeably from right to left or left to right. The reduction of visual information to simple abstract shapes that this required fed naturally into her creative practice both as the child of a family boasting generations of artists—to which she credits her in-born creativity and visual acuity—as well as through her subsequent years of schooling.
During her training years, Dunzinger was particularly interested in traditional Flemish and Dutch masters. After long hours of drawing classes at Escola D’Art Da Vinci in Barcelona as she completed her degree in Interior Design, she would join a group of artists at a shared studio in the Gothic Quarter to practice paint handling and the traditional use of light and chiaroscuro under the mentorship of her two "maestros," Tossi and Marti. When Dunzinger moved from Europe to California in 2004, she continued her studies through workshops and mentorships with artists she admired, including Mark Whitney, Robin Hall, Sally Strand, Paul van Ernich, and Greg Beecham, always striving to improve her technique and deepen her practice as a painter. She quickly fell in love with the American wilderness and its expansive variety of landscape and wildlife, eventually deciding to move with her family to Park City, UT in 2015, where she now lives surrounded by nature and the wild animals she so loves to paint.
Christina Dunzinger is a Signature Member of Artists For Conservation.