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JD Deardourff, the Artist Behind Uncanny Fantastic

SPACE4, a shipping container converted into an art gallery, is now home to artist JD Deardourff‘s body of work. His exhibit, “Uncanny Fantastic,” is a collection of abstract collages inspired by comic book imagery. Deardourff’s comic-style pieces are now firmly supplanted in Union Market, as the mobile art space continues its mission to relocate to unconventional venues across DC. We recently caught up with Deardourff about his inspirations and furry assistants.

On Tap: Tell us a little about yourself. I had trouble finding much online.
JD Deardourff: So, the reason there’s not that much about me online right now is because my website is down, which is a bummer. But I’m from Virginia, and then I went to Davidson College in North Carolina, and then I transferred from there to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I graduated in 2012 and moved back to DC, and I’ve been an artist/working odd jobs here ever since.

OT: When you say Virginia, I assume you mean Northern Virginia?
JD: Yeah, so my mom was actually the headmistress at the girls’ boarding school Madeira. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it.

OT: Oh yeah, I used to drive by there when I was younger. How did you get into comic books and making art?
JD: That’s a good one. I think I was always sort of doing it, but with this body of work […] I was making art in art school that, in retrospect seems sort of emo or weird. [But] then I wanted to make artwork that I liked, and I’ve always liked comic books, so I started to make collages from comic books.

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OT: So “Uncanny Fantastic” is collage work then?
JD: Well, it’s sort of a screen-printed comic book based on collages of comic book imagery. Basically, I was making these larger pieces of comic book-inspired artwork, and it seemed like an obvious but also necessary next step to put it into a physical comic book.

OT: That makes sense. Is there a story to it?
JD: Well, there are no words. It’s abstract. [But] I think there’s sort of a narrative. There’s a flow in the way colors and imagery repeat. And there’s a sort of crescendo in the middle to some extent, but there’s no real story.

OT: So where does the title come from?
JD: It’s a combination of…all superheroes are like the Amazing Spiderman or the Incredible Hulk. So, it’s like the Uncanny X-Men and the Fantastic Four. It’s [the] two adjectives combined. I guess “Fantastic” is functioning as a noun in the situation.

OT: Do you have any favorite comic books stores around the city?
JD: I feel bad alienating one or the other. But Fantom Comics in Dupont is the best store. I go to all the comic stores, but Fantom has the best community. They have lots of events and there’s always people hanging out there, like nerds talking about nerdy stuff.

OT: Your exhibit accompanies a book release of Uncanny Fantastic. Is this on Fantom Comics’ radar? 
JD: Yes. I have a pretty good relationship with them. I do screen-printing services for them pretty often.

OT: Are there any galleries you like to stop in?
JD: Well obviously, whatever CulturalDC is doing. But Transformer is one of my favorite galleries. I really like Hemphill. And I like the WPA [Washington Project for the Arts]. Those are the ones I always go to for openings.

OT: Your dog is a recurring character on your Instagram feed. Could you tell us about your dog?
JD: My dog Bruce is a Bernedoodle. He’s like my assistant. He comes with me to my studio and when I’m painting murals and stuff. I live in Petworth and we go to Rock Creek Park a lot to hike around. Those are his favorite activities. But I also take him to the National Gallery from time to time, and the Phillips Collection.

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OT: Are you allowed to bring dogs in there?
JD: Technically no, but he counts as a service dog. I sneak him in. [Laughs]

OT: Do you have any murals in the city?
JD: I do. There’s one in a restaurant called Honeygrow in Chinatown. There’s one that I did for Pow! Wow! DC, which is like a mural festival, and that’s on the corner of First and Pierce in NoMa. Those are the only two that are open to the public. There are a couple others in apartment buildings. My next project is one I’m doing on the bottom of a pool for a building called Central in Silver Spring. And then I’m working on one for this place on 14th. And there’s another one I’m actually doing with CulturalDC, which is next to the Hyatt Hotel on the corner of 23rd and Virginia. Those are the three upcoming ones.

OT: What else do you have coming up?
JD: The community workshops, which will be open to the public. They’re going to be hands-on screen-printing demonstrations, and right now I think the idea is that people will print the last layer of a poster [that] they can take with them. Another part of the exhibit is that the artwork is wheat pasted onto the walls, which is like a homemade glue. So, I think I’m also going to include a wheat paste demonstration. Yeah, screen printing and wheat pasting.

OT: Is the artwork all taken from the book?
JD: Some of it. There’s a crossover for sure. I would say the exhibit is all the work I’ve done for the past four years, and the book is selections of that work.

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JD’s “Uncanny Fantastic” exhibit will be on display in SPACE4 at Union Market through February 23. You can find him selling copies of the Uncanny Fantastic book there, or look for him around the city painting murals with his Bernedoodle Bruce. The gallery is open Wednesday through Friday, 12-8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Admission is free.

For more on JD, follow him on Instagram here. For more on SPACE4 and CulturalDC, click here

Union Market: 1309 5th St. NE, DC; 301-347-3998; www.unionmarketdc.com

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Michael Loria

Michael Loria is a writer who focuses on art and music. For On Tap, his work includes a cover story on the Principal Conductor and Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra, Gianandrea Noseda, for the December 2017 print edition, and features like his interviews with Carla Bruni and with Thievery Corporation. Collectively, he's penned more than 40 clips for the magazine.