Raul Dorn – bio

Las Cruces artist and arts educator Raul Dorn began his formal art exploration at the University of New Mexico in 1977 after being fully seduced with the creative process in his high school art classes. He studied Ceramics with Roger Sweet and poetry with David Johnson, Gene Frumpkin and Robert Creely as an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico. In 1987 after a move to Las Cruces he completed a BFA in Studio Arts at New Mexico State University. Dorn’s central focus at NMSU was in drawing and performance art. He presented five major public performance pieces through the sculpture program which incorporated elements of theater, music, dance, sound collages and visual imagery. Raul was the music director and program director at KRUX radio on campus for several years, and began his exploration into song writing and performed in several local bands including the seminal local punk band Anxiety of Silence.

Mr. Dorn’s innate desire to be of service and to work in the visual arts led him into the field of arts education, completing a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction in 1988. Dorn retired from public school teaching at the secondary level after 26 years in the classroom in 2014. Dorn taught drawing, painting, printmaking, and ceramics at Mayfield High School for fifteen years and the remaining crusade at Alma d’arte Charter High School. He was awarded the annual Arts in Education Award by the Las Cruces Dona Ana Arts Council in 2004, and Artist of the Year from Artforms in 2014.

Raul Dorn has been in many local and regional exhibitions and is represented locally by the Unsettled Gallery, and the OAC Gallery on line. Mr. Dorn and his wife Tauna Cole-Dorn won a regional competition and were commissioned to beautify a local underpass at the town of Mesilla and I-10 as part of the New Mexico State Highway Department mural program the summer of 1999. He is currently a very happy full time Elementary and Middle School studio art teacher at Holy Cross Catholic Schools in Las Cruces.

Artist Statement

Using words to explain my own visual work is first often a chore that becomes a challenge that becomes a reward, as words can unlock clarity provided only through reflection. The art critic Harold Rosenberg observed in the work of the action painters of Abstract Expressionism that, “at a certain moment the canvas began to appear as an arena in which to act, rather than a space in which to ‘express’ an object, actual or imagined. What was to go on the canvas was not a picture, but an event.” That observation sums up a core goal of mine to not replicate the visual environment or portray nouns, but to discover seeing what is not seeable through that ”event”; to explore that which lies beneath, behind, and within perceivable visible reality. I call it divine spirit, or the pulse of God stuff. I have another quote pinned to my easel from the the painter Lucian Freud that continues to guide me with the thought “the longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and ironically, the more real”. I like the mystery of it all.

My process often begins with quickly paced sessions of improvisational automatic painting so to activate the surface, to begin the calling forth, all the while trying my best to stay out of my way. The process then gradually slows down as the composition develops, and I begin to discern that which arrives, adding layers of paint to clarify emerging shapes and forms, painting out other areas, always trying to follow my gut, not my head. During this process my concern is composition, how areas of the painting begin to connect to one another and push and pull at each other. What tends to emerge are the subtle references to the human figure as well as the landscape. Sometimes I don’t fight back and allow a more recognizable narrative to emerge, other times I push for total abstraction. So, not knowing the next step in the painting process, not having preconceived nouns as subjects, groping for clues in the darkness, letting go, keeps me searching for the light of that connective dance with something greater than myself.