Working Up an Appetite for Art at Coda Gallery

Exhibit gives patrons pause with "Food for Thought"

David Dornan stands by his ice cream painting at Coda Gallery in Palm Desert. Behind him his a painting of a roasted chicken and beer can by his wife, Marilou Kundmueller.

Marcia Gawecki photos


Artist David Dornan just lost 70 pounds and yet has a lot to say about painting food.

His small and large-scale paintings of ice cream cones are featured in “Food for Thought,” a Coda Gallery exhibit running through Nov. 30 in Palm Desert.

The artist known for his still life paintings of paint cans focused on ice cream cones for the show. However, their strange colors of red and blue ice cream look less like dairy and more like balls of paint.

It’s the Mess that Matters

“I’m like an ice cream vendor at a fair,” says Dornan. “The ice cream will be dripping all over, and it will be messy.”

In fact, it’s the mess that impresses Dornan the most.

“I’m not interested in painting the big bouquet,” he says. “I want to paint what the floral designer left over - the stems, the pieces and the mess. I want to capture its ‘humanness.’ To me, that’s a more interesting painting.”

Dinner parties at the Dornan household are unpredictable. Instead of flowers, they have stacked glasses of milk as the centerpiece. One time, they served everything with surgical instruments, bedpans, and nasal aspirators.

Marilou Kundmueller, Dornan’s wife, is a medical illustrator, and she also has paintings in the Coda Gallery show.

Dornan’s ice cream cones are topped with whip cream and cherries, while others are toppled. But it’s the colorful drips that also capture your attention.

Dornan, a retired teacher from the University of Utah, has been showing at the Coda Gallery for more than three decades.

One of his student assignments was to mix the color of bologna.

“A few of them came close, but all of them were unwilling to add the green paint needed to get the right color,” Dornan says.

Still Teaching

Dornan continues to teach emerging artists like Mark Green out of his studio in Helper, Utah.

Green, a Mormon missionary who used to deliver Wonder Bread, found Dornan’s studio and convinced him of his dedication. His oil paintings of uniform Corona bottles and Coke/Pepsi cans show beauty in repetition.

“But what makes his paintings interesting is the imperfections,” says Dornan as he stands before “Pepsi Challenge” at Coda Gallery.

Green isn’t ready to paint the Wonder Bread loaves that he used to stack for years.

“It’s still too personal,” he says.

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VIDEO: Listen to David Dornan explain the thinking behind his paint tube creations.

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