March 2, 2016

Didi Dunphy

Athens Superheroes

Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones

Superpowers she wishes she had: “I would like to be able to uncover all the lost, stolen or missing artworks, such as the Vermeer from the Gardner Museum. I would like to be best friends with Beyoncé, and I would like to be able to change the color of my hair by just thinking about it.”

For whirlwind artist Didi Dunphy, the world is a playground rich with color, shape and sound just waiting to be explored, re-imagined and shared. Since moving to Athens 15 years ago with her husband, fellow artist James Barsness, Dunphy has worked tirelessly to enliven and enrich the Athens arts community. A powerhouse of creative energy, her keen eye, knack for organizing people and connections with the nation’s top contemporary art resources have created countless exhibition opportunities and supportive funds for local artists.

Dunphy grew up in Manhattan with two creative parents, and the city—long considered the center of the art world—remains an important point of connection for her work. She also spent a great deal of time in the major art cities of the West Coast, receiving her MFA in Performance Video from the San Francisco Art Institute and living in Los Angeles for many years before coming to Athens. Dunphy taught time-based art at the University of Georgia, where she pioneered the now annual New York trips for art students, before moving to curation in 2010.

Dunphy currently holds several influential positions around town, including her role as program supervisor of the Lyndon House Arts Center. Her major upcoming project is the center’s 41st Juried Show, which has brought in a record number of artist applicants and close to 1,000 individual works of art. Last summer, the Lyndon House hosted a series of Dunphy’s stop-animation workshops for children, funded by AthFest Educates. Dunphy was also essential in forming the recently announced partnership between the Lyndon House, AthFest and illustrator David Hale to design the festival’s 20th anniversary mural.

As curator of the Gallery@Hotel Indigo, Dunphy arranges quarterly exhibitions by visiting and local artists alike through her characteristically playful approach to curation. Her most recent and most ambitious project to date was “Chain Reaction,” an exhibition wherein each artist Dunphy invited in turn invited another artist, creating a show that acted as a physical representation of the local creative web Dunphy is so well-known for facilitating. Finally, Dunphy will soon be rotating off a three-year position as a commissioner of the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission, where, in her first year, she launched an annual mini-grant program that funds two to three artists’ projects each year.

Somehow, amidst these positions and numerous other local projects, Dunphy maintains a thriving personal artistic practice. Through her design company, Modern Convenience, she creates playful furniture pieces like swing sets, seesaws and embroidered indoor skateboards for adults. Dunphy also has a current show in Cumming, taking form in a multimedia, indoor-outdoor scavenger hunt, and an upcoming solo show in Atlanta’s prestigious White Space Gallery.

Dunphy is a community champion of incorporating art into every aspect of life, and hopes her work will contribute to the economic sustainability of the arts in Athens. Her wish list for Athens’ future includes an artist residency program, a long-term art magazine and an artist co-operated, co-owned professional gallery space.