"The teacher was kind of taken aback," says the now 18-year-old artist. "He asked me if I could do something like that again." Unbelievably Mother's Touch, the first painting Dunbar ever attempted, looked like the work of an artist with years of experience.
Since then Dunbar has perfected her technique in three styles of painting -- American and French impressionism and abstraction. She handles her amazing accomplishments in blasé fashion. "My career didn't really start until I was 16, a senior in high school," she comments. "Painting was my summer job, instead of working for McDonald's or at the mall. I really didn't talk about it to a lot of people. It's just a really personal thing. Plus, I didn't think it was anything special."
When art agents began to rave about her work, though, it became apparent even to Dunbar that hers was no ordinary talent. She decided to use her skill to do some good and, after donating $100,000 (from the proceeds of a piece she did for the cover of Charlotte Church's album) to Oprah Winfrey's Angel Network in May 2000, the young artist started her own charity, the Angel Alliance. Dunbar's organization raises money to help children victimized by violence.
The Columbine school shooting in Littleton, Colorado, occurred when Dunbar was a senior, and she maintains that the effect on her school, Allen High School, in Allen, Texas, was almost immediate. "The adults looked at the students as if we were potential killers instead of young adults," she says. "Metal detectors got put in; they searched everyone's bags. It was horrible."
This Wednesday she brings a message of nonviolence to Bal Harbour Gallery in West Palm Beach, where she will speak to young adults. On the following day, more than 40 of her works will be available for sale. If you're in the market, plan to drop a bundle. Dunbar's serigraphs (silk prints of original works) sell for a few thousand dollars each, while originals have gone for as much as $25,000 apiece. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Stop the Violence, a charity dedicated to ending violence in schools.
"Follow your dreams, try new things, and express yourself in a nonviolent way," is how Dunbar describes her message to her peers. "Whether through sports, art, music, anything, there are better ways to rebel."