Daniel Funkhouser’s artwork reflects a passion for change

Story and photos by Grace Lieberman.

Daniel Funkhouser has learned to roll with the punches in just about every way. The Phoenix-based multimedia artist takes advantage of his dynamic personality by breaking away from tradition in his art. 

Some of Funkhouser’s pieces are difficult to define. He creates sculptures from acrylic that evoke the feeling of a portrait and hang on a wall like one, they even have brushstrokes but they are certainly not paintings.

Funkhouser found his passion for art early in life but struggled to see a future in it until much later.

“It was like one of those things where that was what felt right to me at that time, and I never thought it could be a career,” Funkhouser said, “My subconscious is so much smarter than me, and it just guided me to that.” 

After Funkhouser completed an arts education in painting and started working with Scottsdale Public Art, he shifted his focus to sculpture. 

Across mediums, Funkhouser’s art is playful and vibrant, your eye is instantly drawn to the color and variety, then the complexity and themes displayed in the work can keep you staring. 

“I don’t exactly know where that came out of, but that’s always been with me,” Funkhouser said about the using toy-like aesthetics and colors in his work.

Funkhouser said some influences of his art include Japanese and Pop art. 

“There’s a little bit of childish joy in the work, and I like it when there’s a little bit of some darkness,” Funkhouser said, “I like things that are contradictions, but are still also true, so there’s this tension.”

Funkhouser said that the contradictions in his work are partly inspired by the contradictions he feels in his identity.

“I’m like pretty straight-presenting, but my own sense of my gender is more like agender like I don’t want anything to define what I can and can’t do by my sex, orientation, or anything like that,” Funkhouser said.

Funkhouser said that his installation and sculpture art feed his love of and challenge and change.

“There’s a lot of variety so I can really stay engaged,” Funkhouser said. “For me, the artistic process is like learning something new,

One of Funkhouser’s recent challenges was developing a photographic process that involves using a laser cutter to etch through many layers of paint to create a picture. 

Funkhouser recently finished up an installation for the Burton Barr Central Library. His sculpture, called Radiant Grove, is a stunning sculpture of exactly what the title says. Radiant Grove will be up on the second floor of the library until April 2020.

This installation was commissioned by the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture and Funkhouser was able to fully realize his vision by winning a grant from the organization IN FLUX that partners with local artists to make public art.