When fishing is thought of, the first things that come to mind might be food, sport, survival or necessity. A fishing lure is a tool that facilitates this action, something fairly mundane to those living in rural areas that grew up catching fish in local water bodies. Yet taking the mundane and turning it into a feat of creative expression is precisely in Tyler Junior College Art Professor Chance Dunlap’s wheelhouse.
Through his Design 2 class, students “worked through some design issues to create an object that is both aesthetically interesting, yet also has a specific sort of function,” said Dunlap.
Design 2 is a core arts class that deals with three-dimensional objects. Dunlap’s fishing lure assignment has students choose the wood they want to work with and draw a basic design, then create a functioning, weighted lure that is completely theirs.
“There’s a tradition in the United States of people making fishing lures, it really starts as a Native American practice for catching fish for a very utilitarian need,” said Dunlap. “The first patented fishing lure in the United States was done in 1852, and the first patented wooden fishing lure was like the early 1890s.”
Dunlap has been creating art with fishing lures since he was young. His designs are a part of his artistic repertoire and have been featured in various exhibits on campus both in Wise Auditorium and in the Tyler Museum of Art.
“I really liked fishing when I was a kid, it was always one of my favorite things, and I collected some old lures that my dad had, and I had them hanging in my bedroom, and I got a book about old fishing lures,” said Dunlap. “It took me about twenty years later, I was in graduate school, and I kind of started making some as a side project to my other studio work, and in the last few years, it has kind of become a big part of it.”
Now utilizing this creative idea in the classroom, his students have the opportunity to make something completely their own. Willow Lanchester, an art student who took Dunlap’s class last semester, recalls enjoying the opportunity.
“I loved that class, it was so much fun, it was really my first time working with 3D, so it was really amazing,” said Lanchester. “I only made one lure, because I spent time on it because I wanted to get it perfect.”
Due in part to her mother being an entomologist, Lanchester has had a fascination with insects, even taking on an internship with the Texas Bee-Keeper Association. So naturally, her lure expressed that aspect of her life and personality.
“It was a dragonfly larva,” said Lanchester about her lure design.
Starting with the fall 2016 class, Dunlap decided to start collecting lure donations from students in his class. His idea is to create some form of a lasting exhibit showcasing various lure designs from generations of students. This is a work in progress, but ideas he floated included creating a case display in the Jenkins art lobby.
Derrick White, the TJC art department chair, seems to support Dunlap’s idea, though they have yet to discuss any plans in great detail. He seems to have great respect for Dunlap’s art and ideas.
“I’ve seen the lures that were created last semester, he had a good group of very talented students and they made some very intriguing, aesthetically pleasing fishing lures. These fishing lures are his life’s passion, and he really brings that kind of passion and energy into the classroom,” said White. “He is a craftsman through and through.”
Something everyone in the art department has agreed on is the importance of art in education and the latent potential for beauty and expression that can reside in even the most everyday objects.
“All art is made by humans, for humans, about being human,” said White.
Registration is closed for Spring 2017 classes, but for more information on TJC’s art department, exhibits, and class offerings visit http://www.tjc.edu or stop by the art lobby in Jenkins.