John D. Donehue, Jr.
John Douglas Donehue, Jr. was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. He attended The Savannah College of Art and Design. Completing courses in drawing, illustration, fiber arts, painting, two-dimensional design, three-dimensional design, color theory, graphic design and courses focused on art history. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design in June 1994.
Following graduation in Savannah, John went to Baltimore, Maryland and began work in the production-based environment of a busy sign shop. Projects included hand-made, lighted sign boxes; unique, illustrated A-frame sandwich boards; as well as producing patterns for neon and the layout and lettering of everything from store front windows to tractor trailers. All this production during his workday had a productive and ever more creative effect on him in his own shop at night.
Materials such as foam, plastic and wood all had an appeal. One job involved laminating letters with brass. As John was able to keep all of the brass that was left over, an intense study of metals followed. Brass salvaged from bar railings, galvanized steel from air conditioning ducts, stainless steel scraps from local welding shops. Metal was workable! Not only that, but metal was also forgiving which seemed perfect for a “heavy hand”. The fascination of working with metal had begun.
John’s work is influenced by the ideas of Orphism and the non-objective painter, Robert Delaunay, the “Boogie-Woogie” of Piet Mondrian, the abstracts and “Jazzy” paper cuts of Henri Matisse, the bold lines of David Smith’s steel, the whimsical nature of North Carolina artist Fred Kessler and his “Porch Pelicans” and especially Alexander Calder, the creator of mobile forms of sculpture. Working in three dimensions, John finds constant creative energy in his process.
“Hands on the materials- cutting, grinding, welding or brazing, bending, balancing and painting or polishing three dimensional shapes and vessels, along with the linear aspects of wire and the planer idea of sheet metals and other materials…that’s what I enjoy.”
John was awarded third place in the 1998 and 1999 Spoleto Crafts Fair for his display of mobile art. Working with Art for Business in Charleston and Enwright & Associates Architects of Greenville, SC in 1998, he was commissioned to create a large mobile for the 30-foot atrium entrance to Rutledge Tower at the Medical University of South Carolina. Later that year, a smaller version of the mobile was created and donated to the Children’s Hospital at MUSC.
In early 2002, John was invited to a monthly meeting of the AIA (American Institute of Architects) to discuss producing public art. As a result, John was commissioned by The Beach Company and LS3P Architects to produce a sculpture for the entrance of an upscale housing development in Mt Pleasant, SC named Marais, the French word for “marsh”. By 2003, the work evolved into a stand of over 150 steel and copper cattails that gradually rise from about 12 inches to12 foot tall plants. The logo for Marais is situated within the plants, as they appear to grow naturally from left to right while an alluring metal marsh bird, named Horatio, greets everyone who arrives and seemingly he glances back!
Working with the staff of Mckellar & Associates at Trident Academy in Mt Pleasant, SC, John created a large mobile – “One Fish, Two Fish!”- for the entrance hall of the building. Later, the architects from Mckellar again asked John to create a large mobile for the atrium entrance at Baptist Hill High School in Hollywood, SC. The final 10’X10” design represented an individual with lots of HEART, literally carrying different levels of academic achievement while incorporating the school colors.
In 2005, graphic design again played a central role in John’s creative life. His design was chosen to be the poster for the Petite Performance Pavilion during Piccolo Spoleto that year. During that year John also received Artist in Residency status. He worked with students from C.E. Williams Middle School to produce a show called “The Bridge I View”. Works produced reflected the students’ ideas of the new Ravenel Bridge and ideas were based on the kinetic and colorful work of Alexander Calder. The works were displayed at the Charleston Visitors Center Bus Shed during the Piccolo Spoleto Festival.
An important element of success for John is the ability to produce art for the benefit of others. Throughout his career he has annually donated work to support a myriad of local causes including the Charleston Stage Company’s young theatre programs, Creative Spark’s “Art on the Beach” on Sullivan’s Island which helps fund their scholarship programs, the Spoleto Auction supporting the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and MUSC Children’s Hospital. Continuing this philanthropic tradition, in 2011, John has donated the “Big Yard Bird” to the Horticultural Society of Charleston’s fundraiser, a stingray base sculpture to Lend A Hand for Japan and continued his annual support of Communities in Schools, contributing “The Toucan from the Yucatan” and "Bessie" to the Annual Chocolate Affair auctions as well as a “Cooper River Fish” to the annual Yacht Affair.
Being a Charleston native, John is inspired by the opportunity to embrace his surroundings while simultaneously expressing his contemporary thoughts. His newest creations incorporate materials from those same surroundings, whether its pieces of the “Old” Cooper River Bridges, objects reclaimed from old buildings, or items found while exploring with his dogs. These materials combined with his unique ideas culminate in his creative style of sculpture.
The intrigue of working with metal continues…