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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA alumnus, ‘The Lebowski Cycle’ artist Joe Forkan to present process behind his paintings at UAMA

    Courtesy Jacob Chinn/UA Alumni Association

    For artist Joe Forkan, it is hard to say if his most recent showing at the UA Museum of Art, “The Lebowski Cycle,” is more of a homecoming or a career coming full circle.

    The 1989 UA graduate credits much of his artistic know-how to the time he spent here at the university. And now, 27 years later, Forkan is back at the university that refined him, back in the town he grew up in and back at the museum he drew inspiration from — not as a student, citizen or patron, but rather an artist showing his work.

    Currently on display at the UA Museum of Art until Sept. 25, Forkan’s exhibition draws its inspiration from a mix of the cult-classic movie “The Big Lebowski,” and masterpieces of European art, according to the UA museum of Art’s website. The museum is also hosting the event, Artist Talk with Joe Forkan on Sept. 15, at 5:30 p.m. where he will talk about creating “The Lebowski Cycle.”

    This event is free for all UA students, faculty, staff, anyone under the age of 18 and military or tribal members with a valid I.D.

    Forkan was born in New York, but like many from the East Coast, Arizona’s weather brought his family to Tucson. He started expressing an interest in art at a young age — he liked drawing cartons and comics. He and his siblings would have drawing competitions, but as they got older, his siblings stopped drawing while Forkan continued.

    Forkan was the first person in his family to attend college. Growing up in Tucson, he visited UA and said it was a “no-brainer” for him to go to school here. He didn’t even consider another university.

    “Since UA has such a big presence in Tucson, I always assumed I would go there,” Forkan said.

    During one of his many visits to the UA campus, he went to UAMA where he had his first museum experience.

    Forkan drew comic strips in high school and, once in college, would “grow his chops” as a cartoonist for the Daily Wildcat—developing his style and getting lots of exposure along the way. He wanted to be in the art world and wanted to do many forms of art, but Forkan said he wasn’t sure how to pick just one.

    While illustrating at the Wildcat, his cartoon strips focused on college life and current events. He believes his college experience wasn’t typical, but it made for great stories.

    He not only drew cartoon strips, but did illustrating, editorials and panel cartooning. His time at the Wildcat taught him to use illustrations to better tell stories.

    The UA had a huge impact on his artistic style and development. At the time, in the College of Fine Arts, there was a big separation between illustration and fine art.

    “There was a lot of scrutiny from my illustration professor if I was doing fine art and visa versa,” Forkan said. “This forced me to be able to defend my work and get better all the time, since there was critiques in all directions about what I was doing.”

    Forkan, now a professor of art at California State University, Fullerton, is thrilled to have his art showing back in the place where it all started at UAMA.

    He said his work is “something that came out of my time at UA — my education there.”

    “The Lebowski Cycle” is Forkan’s biggest body of work to date, by number of paintings and size, they are huge. At the Art Museum Art Lecture, Forkan will talk about formal, technical and conceptual aspects of how he created these works and much more.

    “The work changes as you make it and you change as you make it and your ideas change and grow, if they didn’t it would be really boring,” Forkan said.

    Follow Kristi Rucker on Twitter.

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