UH College of the Arts (CotA) graduate student Alton DuLaney (MFA 2018) is no stranger to the spotlight. His creative career, which he calls a “tri-coastal odyssey,” began humbly at Lone Star College—Kingwood near his hometown of Splendora, Texas. He then studied studio art at the University of Texas before joining a traveling vaudevillian circus that took him to New York City. Once on the East Coast, he landed a coveted position with Patricia Field, the costume designer for “Sex and the City.” After 9/11, he designed jewelry in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and later, branched out into set design, which brought him to Los Angeles. Now, back in Texas, he works with the Splendora Gardens in the studio of sculptors James Surls and Charmaine Locke.
Along the way, DuLaney began turning heads a paper goods crafter. In 2008, he earned the title of “Most Gifted Wrapper” in the Scotch Brand Most Gifted Wrapper competition—and took home the $10,000 grand prize. He has since appeared as a guest on numerous television shows, cementing his reputation as a craft and home décor lifestyle expert.
And so, as someone familiar with the presence of TV cameras, DuLaney seemed to be in his element as he guided CBS’s production crew through his art studio at the University of Houston earlier this month. The crew was filming a holiday special for “Sunday Morning” that featured his wide range of talents from interior decorating and consulting, to community-focused crafts, to conceptual and performance art.
“I’m really interested in inspiring other people,” DuLaney told “Sunday Morning” host Nancy Giles. “Part of how I encourage others to explore their creativity is through the performance of crafting,” he said, noting the paper crafts class he teaches on Craftsy.
The element of performance permeates DuLaney’s studio space, where his work addresses ideas of power, patriotism, and pride and draws attention to the role of the artist. His workspace sits on display in the Studio 326 in the School of Art between his impeccably framed pieces, including a massive homecoming mum and a life-sized trophy.
“When I returned to Texas to start pursuing my MFA, I decided to really own the title of ‘Artist,’ to embody it and live it fully,” he said. “I’m really interested in how, just by signing something, the artist has this almost divine power to transform it into a work of art.”
As a Graduate Teaching Fellow, DuLaney leads a public art class to introduce students to the city’s wealth of public art, including UH’s own collection, which is one of the largest in the state. He also guides campus art tours as a docent with the Blaffer Art Museum.
“Houston is a great place for art and we have incredible work right here on campus!” he said, sharing that he enjoys how his UH class takes students beyond the galleries and museums. “It’s really about inspiring students to see work they haven’t seen before.”