In 2006 Dunham painted the first canvas, Finding Water, of what was to become an eight-year project based on the idea of a naked woman experiencing being in a body of water surrounded by flowers and trees.
Explaining the seed of the idea, he says ‘As a boy, I went to the beach every summer, and I watched my mother and my aunts and their friends go in and out of the water every day. And then fifty, sixty years later, I get the bright idea of making paintings of women in the water. What does that mean, quote-unquote? I haven’t a clue. But I can imagine that my pictorial imagination was branded by that experience. At some point, life starts creeping in.’
When asked why he chooses to exaggerate elements in his paintings, especially genitals and nipples, he explains that ‘there’s a whole almost science of erotics in our society. We’re being exposed to and having it inflicted on us constantly – to sell things, to engage us, to stimulate us. It affects our fantasy lives, it affects all kinds of things. But I didn’t come to it that way. I don’t see these elements as particularly erotic. I build them out of the same ridiculously simple design vocabulary I’ve used since the beginning of my work. They are constructions, much more analogous to making sentences out of words and letters than they are any kind of conventional notion of representing particular parts of the human body.’