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Tony Furtado:
The whale in the room

July 9–31, 2022

The Dalles Art Center is proud to present Tony Furtado a musician and sculptor based in Portland, Oregon. As the winner of the juried exhibition at the Biennial Exhibition Beyond The Construct, Furtado received a solo exhibition at TDAC. This body of work represents an exploration of the natural world in reaction to the human impact on the delicate balance of thriving vs. struggling species. 


Tony Furtado is an acclaimed folk and roots musician who has recorded 20 albums under his own name as well as played with the likes of Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas, Tim O’Brien, Kelly Joe Phelps. Prior to his career as a musician, he was a ceramic sculptor in college. This work was cut short after winning the National Bluegrass Banjo Championship. As his music career progressed with tours with Gregg Allman David Lindley, Derek Trucks and Sonny Landreth, he returned to Portland to expand on the fundamentals of sculpting. He dug into human anatomy, color theory, glaze formulation and mold making & casting. When he felt ready, he bought a kiln and moved his practice into a studio space at the Falcon Art Community.


Whether it's an accurate biological rendering or a surreal statement, he begins with imagining a creature, a person, or patterned structure differently in order to capture the duality of what is fierce and fragile in the form. His work is driven by the tension between survival and surrender, something we all balance as part of this wildly changing planet. 


His process starts with either a lump of clay or a bamboo lattice-work form that he coats with slip and fires in the kiln. He occasionally uses traditional glazes, but most pieces are surfaced with a tough, resin and plaster based, non-fired coating that is combined with metal powders. The finish cures and oxidizes to provide an appearance of aged bronze or distressed iron. This is an intuitive process that taps into the improvisation and exploration developed as a musician. The risk taking allows him to go beyond the obvious to express something with deeper resonance. His willingness to take chances has led to new forms and techniques that are not easily recognized as ceramic but often mistaken as metalwork or wood carvings


The interplay of music and clay has brought a new awareness of creativity that he shares with his wife and sometimes musical partner Stephanie Schneiderman. He is often joined in the studio by his son Liam, also a talented ceramicist working beyond his age.

Opening Reception:  Saturday, July 9, 2022, 5–8pm

Tony Furtado and Stephanie Schneiderman at 7pm

Tony Furtado Artist Statement


The natural world vs industry

A few years ago, while traveling with my family through the San Juan Islands, we had the fortune of spotting several different pods of Orca Whales. We saw groups of both Transients (large mammal eating) and Residents (salmon eating). It was a moving experience to see these amazing animals searching for salmon, or corralling a seal to train the adolescents how to kill, or just swimming straight on course while half their brain sleeps! I soon decided to dig in, learn more, study their form and make Orca based sculpture. 


While researching online, I discovered a birds eye view picture of a pod of Orcas that captivated me. Something about this vantage point was impactful. Maybe it’s their silent beauty against the vast and empty ocean. This overhead view made  their struggle apparent I could see that some whales were thinner than others, suffering from starvation due to lack of salmon caused by overfishing, pollution, dams, or the changing climate. 


I decided to start by sculpting one whale and creating a mold to press multiples in the hopes of birthing a pod, however, their form became a mantra that I would repeat with textural variations to elicit the sense of disappearing, dissolution and discorporation.

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