in partnership
Guest Bedroom, Pacific Palisades, 2016, Dawn Cerny, plaster tape, foam, and archival inkjet, 29 x 20 x 7 in., Courtesy of the artist © Dawn Cerny. Photo by Dawn Cerny

Artist of the Week: Dawn Cerny

This is the second of a three-part Artist of the Week series sponsored by Seattle Art Museum. We’ll be showcasing the work of the recent winner of the Betty Bowen Award, along with two artists who received special recognition. If you know a local artist that you would like to see featured in our Artist of the Week series, let us know at And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Dawn Cerny doesn’t discriminate when it comes to the materials she uses to showcase her art. Working with mediums like collage, sculpture, and printmaking, Dawn received the Special Recognition Award from the Betty Bowen Committee, a $2,500 cash prize.

How long have you been creating this type of art?
When I was very young I thought I was going to be an actor and soon realized that there were infinitely more possibilities if I was an artist. I think I have been working critically as an artist for the last 14 years--- but I only really started believing that art could really do something 7 years ago.

Do you work with other mediums?
I have a pretty guileless relationship with the material. The questions shape the material--sometimes that is a time-based medium like text and the voice and other times it is a more traditional plastic material like paint and wood.

Can you tell me about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?

I ask a lot of questions, read, observe, have conversations with peers---- and when something feels like a bad idea, like, really problematic--- then I dig in and then spend the next year/s grappling with whatever is there. I work pretty slowly, try to look more then I make moves and allow myself to think I know what I am doing—until something catastrophic happens and the real work starts to take form.

Tell me about where your inspiration for your art come from?
Presently my list goes like this: Marguerite Duras. Buster Keaton. Mike Leigh’s plays. Middle-class interiors throughout history. Mass produced things and handmade things. The Bloomsbury Group. Howard’s End. Morandi. Architectural wit. Matisse. How and why people decorate. My Husband, D.W. Burnam; one of the grandest readers I know. Working moms and caretakers--- and what they know.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
Style? Film? Sandwiches? Are these beats? I like these things

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk 1989 Andrea Fraser

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
In the 6th grade, I punched the most handsome boy, in my class, square in the face because he was beating up one of our peers who was smaller than him. I warned him to stop and after he didn’t -- I punched him to shock him out of his behavior. It worked and he hated me forever after that and brought me to tears at least twice in public. He was 80’s Teutonic villain handsome—it would have never worked and my heart is still crushed.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
My website - I’d say my Instagram or twitter accounts are the best forms to see work and thinking in tandem.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
I just finished a pretty extraordinary commissioned wall drawing at Uber’s downtown Seattle offices – that only a few people will see in real life.

  • Oct 31st - November 18th Solo show “Slow and Low: Mouth A Grape” at Western Washington University’s Viking Union Gallery
  • Dec. 8th - January 15th “Victory Garden” as Daft Kuntz (my side project with artist Victoria Haven) at Planthouse Gallery in New York
  • Dec. 10th – 11th at the Vancouver Art Gallery my collaborator artist Colleen Brown and I will be doing a two-day sculptural workshop/performance event for the VAG’s “Family Fuse Weekend”
  • January – February 2017 solo show of sculptures at Seattle University’s Vashon Gallery “A thing with another thing makes a meaning.”
  • March 4th - September 10th 2017 the collective Kraft Dunst (Dan Webb, Matt Sellers, Dave Lipe) and myself are doing a sculptural and architectural project in the Lower Galleries at the Henry Art Gallery -

Lastly, how do you take your coffee?
With whole milk. My preferred coffee is PG Tips with whole milk--- so, like, basically, tea.