Pursuing a career of creativity and inspiration


Jacob Summerville

Professor of Sculpture Dale Newkirk sits beside one of his newer works in his series entitled “Trumped,” which can be found hanging in his office.

Jacob Summerville, Staff Reporter

With 34 years of educational experience across three universities and artworks displayed on an international level, Gallery Director and Professor of Sculpture Dale Newkirk shared his passion for the arts and experiences with the university.

Starting his teaching career in 1984 at New Mexico State University, Newkirk has worked in the areas of sculpture, painting, installations, drawing and public arts. His art has been featured in New Orleans, Chicago, New Delhi and several more cities worldwide.

Newkirk shared that he started drawing flowers and animals from a young age. Since he was in and out the hospital due to chronic asthma as a child, he passed the time by engaging himself with art.

“As you’re laying around in the hospital bed, you’re trying to occupy yourself, and words and language was not really something that I would gravitate to,” said Newkirk.

Newkirk was a frequent hospital visitor for asthma until the third grade. He stayed devoted to his craft throughout his life and stated that art seemed to be the only career choice for him.

“I’m very fortunate to be able to make a living out of it because that’s the only thing I really pursued, and I also made sure that there weren’t other options along the way,” said Newkirk.

Today, Newkirk’s art focuses on a nonrepresentational theme in his work where he uses geometric patterns as the base of his artwork. He stated that printed texts have been the inspiration for his latest works.

“These pieces have been inspired by faded, somewhat destroyed billboards you see around that are peeled and crumbled, and those are kind of found paintings to be,” said Newkirk. “Those are kind of the starting point and sort of the inspiration. Most of my work comes out of modern language and period.”

From this inspiration, Newkirk currently displayed a piece from his series entitled “Trumped – Two” in his office. This work includes the word “Cuba” and was influenced by popular terms used in the current media.

Newkirk stated that he likes to create a series of artwork from one continuous theme, and he usually works on more than one series at a time.

According to Newkirk, one of the universal benefits of someone being an artist is that it turns them into a problem solver.

“You’re thinking creatively,” said Newkirk. “You’re addressing specific problems that you either start with or come up during the work, and in today’s world, you have to be articulate about that work also. I think that, along with the knowledge of materials and how to make things and create things, art can transcend into a lot of different things in your life.”

Newkirk stated that art allows people to see, not just view, the ways their surroundings and the world as a whole are put together. He believes that art makes people better understand what they see.

“You’re not going to get it from a quick glance,” said Newkirk.

Newkirk joined the university staff in 2003 and previously worked at New Mexico State University and Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. He said that the aspect of the university that connected to him was its proximity to New Orleans since it is a large city with an art center.

Newkirk discussed how there are only around a dozen jobs that are available annually around the nation at universities, and that jobs opportunities in the art world tend to have specific qualifications.

“Sometimes, they might want a figurative painter or a sculptor,” said Newkirk. “They might want someone that does cast drawings or is an installation artist. So, out of those 12, there might only be maybe three or four that you are qualified for.”

Newkirk stated that if he ever gets lost in his practice, he turns to nature for his inspiration.

“I usually return to nature and drawing from life, which might even be a leaf or a bug or some form of nature that I could then start from to redevelop ideas,” said Newkirk.