John T. Unger Artist's Statement + Bio


About the Art:

My creative mandate is "sustainable design with an edge." Just because we're good doesn't mean we have to be boring, right? I think there's a place for rock n' roll to dance with environmental responsibility in a house shakin' way. If green products are to compete in the market, they need to be sexy, sleek and chic— cooler than new.

Surprise and beauty are a good start, but I expect more and so should you. As an artist and designer, I am intensely committed to sustainable design practices and materials in the following ways:

I work primarily with recycled or re-used materials.
This is the best way I know to minimize my impact on natural resources, climate and the environment. In addition, I feel that creative re-use has the potential to spark new ways of looking at the world… if one thing can be turned into another, what else can we change? Successful recycled art and design encourages creativity in others— it's alchemical, magical, subversive, and transformative by nature. I feel that only be a good thing.

I design for permanence. Most of my objects will last generations with little or no maintenance. I try to create objects that will never go out of style by drawing from primal metaphor and classical elements of design that speak to what it means to be human and alive.

I design for functionality. My work is intended to be useful as well as beautiful. I enjoy the practical aspect of art and feel that engineering is as critical as ingenuity in the creation of solid works of art. Where possible, I design for easy disassembly for shipping or later re-use of materials.

About John T. Unger:

I like to joke that I'm the world's most well-educated self-taught artist — I've learned pretty much everything I know by doing it. The best way to get my attention is to tell me that something "can't be done." I'm a bit of a specialist in the field of impossibility remediation. I work in a lot of different styles using a wide variety of materials. I find that each new medium informs all which have come before… music influences my sculpture, poetry was the root of my early mixed media work, etc.

I've been making art professionally for a over a decade, and have made a full-time living as an artist ever since the dot-com crash put the kibosh  on financing my art habit through freelance graphic design. I decided the art would have to support itself, me and the cat and it's worked out pretty darn well. In some ways, the best thing that ever happened to me was when the bubble burst.

Before that, I worked as a print and web designer, illustrator, industrial designer, musician, teacher, actor, and set designer. I began my arts career as a poet and writer, performing in venues as intimate as Stone Circle and as large as the Reverend Mudd Poetry Tent at Lollapalooza. Although poetry was a rotten way to pay the bills, it was a great way to live. It turns out that the chops I developed as a writer come in really handy now that I use blogs as the main venue for selling my work.

My work has been featured in books such as Mosaic Art and Style: Designs for Living Environments, by JoAnn Locktov, The Artful Home, and Sextablos: Works on Metal. Magazines and newspapers which have featured my work include: Wave Magazine, Variety, Bizarre Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, Northern Home Magazine, Northeastern University Magazine, The Cream City Review, New City, and The Chicago Reader.

Museums and galleries have included my sculpture and installations in national and international exhibitions. Significant collections and commissions include public art mosaic murals for Manley Career Academy High School, Chicago; Alden State Bank, Lakeview Baseball Club, Northeastern University, Designhaus Pllc, Architects, and The Cleveland Clinic Foundation and private residences. For details, please refer to my curriculum vitae.

Do you have questions or comments?

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John T. Unger