Doug Tabb: What Did I Just See?

ceramic head with iron nails

December 2019 solo exhibition at 5 Points Gallery, Durham is a delightful experience to surprise and make one think more deeply into what one is seeing. Join us to see these works in person.
Third Friday Reception: December 20, 2019 6-9 pm
Exhibition opens: Thursday December 5, 2019 12 – 9 pm
Exhibition runs December 5, 2019 through January 12, 2019 (gallery closed from December 23, 2019 through January 1, 2020, reopens Thursday January 2, 2020)

  • armadillo inspired ceramic teapot
  • ceramic head with iron nails
  • wood and ceramic sculpture with metal calipers
  • confederate soldier ceramic object
  • Ceramic baby head with ether bottle
  • conceptual sculptural object

Doug Tabb Interview

Favorite medium: Ceramics (though I miss jewelry making, which I did for several years)
Beverage of choice: Water
Favorite thing to do in Durham: Spending a couple hours in the morning at the coffee shop, waking up and planning my day.
5PG Interviewer: You have an exciting exhibition coming up in December at 5 Points Gallery; can you tell us what you are planning for the show and a bit about your new work?

Last year I did a serious show. I felt I needed to present that kind of body of work as my first solo show in Durham, to present myself as a “serious artist.” Over the past year, events in my life (and certainly in the world) have made me want to reflect their ridiculousness back at them. In a world where no one is shocked any more, I want to shock people. So you’ll be seeing more “weird stuff” than you usually see. Bizarre graphics on dinnerware, “statement art,” and, of course, burned doll heads. My ideal goal in a show like this is to give people a moment of self-realization where they see some aspect of themselves reflected in the art.
5PG Interviewer: Your work often reflects a bit of “dark humor,” which can simultaneously be paired with a more serious note.  Can you tell us more about the what inspires you as an artist?

I don’t think I’m so different, really, that most people. I have different facets to my personality, and each can be inspired at any moment, I simply have the ability to express them artistically. I can look at a pattern in an ancient drawing and wonder what it would bring to a contemporary piece. I can also see a disapproving-looking mandrill on a nature show, realize I’ve seen that expression on paintings of Victorian royalty, and think, “well, now I’ve got to make that happen.”
5PG Interviewer: In the gallery, we love how your baby doll heads are so alluring, unforgettable and how they can create conversations between our guests and visitors.  So what inspired the baby doll as a subject, and what content are you trying to convey to your viewers?

I’ve always been interested in how a piece of art affects the viewer psychologically. There are certain concepts, shapes, and objects that are ingrained into our brains in a particular way from childhood. “Home” (one of my favorite subjects) usually  means security, comfort, or family to us. But what happens when you take a visual representation of that and drive nails into it? It influences you emotionally. One of these objects I latched onto and begin to play with years ago was dolls. Dolls are typically warm and comforting …happy memories. Doing things to them influences people, makes them think.
5PG Interviewer: What more well-known artists have been your biggest influences throughout your career?

Pinterest.  I say that jokingly, but I’m kind of serious, and in a way it reflects the things that have influenced me artistically throughout my career. Very rarely do I pay attention to “the work of an artist.” I pay attention to the works themselves. Many things by many, many different artists inspire and influence me. The internet makes it easy to look at a diverse range of works. It’s always best to see artwork in person though, especially, I think, when it comes to three dimensional art. When I lived in Chicago, I attended the SOFA (Sculptural Objects, Functional Art) art and design fair every year. It was my personal Super Bowl. You could get up close to the very best contemporary sculpture in the world.
5PG Interviewer: Do you listen to music while working in the studio, and if so, who?  And what are your favorite and most rewarding moments in your work processes?

I typically listen to 80s music and orchestrated movie soundtracks while I work. If I’m sitting around doing design work, I’ll put some horror movie I’m familiar with on the TV as background noise.

Rewarding? Lately it’s having something come out of the kiln, unbroken. Personally, it’s very satisfying to reach a point in creating a sculpture that makes me think, “yeah, that’s how I intended it to feel.” Also it’s very gratifying to see the looks on people’s faces when they’re surprised by or “get” one of my pieces.
5PG Interviewer: Your work shows very easily in a multitude of settings and interior room styles; so what are some future plans for your sculptures?  Are you showing outside of Durham, and do you still take commissions for sight-specific installations?

Moving to North Carolina from Chicago has forced me to rethink what I can do as an artist. Resources and facilities I had in Chicago aren’t so readily available here. Styles that are well received by people in Chicago aren’t here. The differences and drawbacks have been greater than I’d expected, and I’m thinking a lot about what I’m interested in making that would be better-received by people in North Carolina.

Other than 5 Points Gallery and a modest online presence, I’m not currently showing work anywhere else. I would like to though. I’m always happy to talk to people about commissions. If the concept of what they’re looking for inspires me, I’ll take the commission. I feel that if I’m not excited by the kind of piece they’re looking for, that “uninspiredness” can show in the final piece, and I want someone who’s interested enough in my work to commission me to only get my best.