Briefly describe the work you do.
My work explores racial classification in the modern age and how it pertains to that of previous generations. I work mainly in graphite (on smooth bristol) so as to mimic the black/white theme of my work and to convey the gritty subject matter.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
Growing up biracial in a predominantly white town was the basis and starting point of my creative movement as an artist. I had many emotions and experiences that I wanted to relay to anyone willing to listen, not only as something cathartic for myself, but also to see if there were others like me with similar experiences.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio practice is pretty consistent in terms of the time at which I work, but I have the tendency to work in two different locations – my actual studio and the floor of the family room of my house. Depending on the mood I am in, I work in my studio when I need absolute isolation, with no interruptions, and complete focus. I work on the floor when I want to be at one with my piece and get a little more “in it;” the energy of my surroundings when in the family room can also help in my creative process.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I had no idea how much business would be involved when I made the initial decision to become an artist. It was, and can still be, a daunting subject. I was accustomed to focusing on the creative aspect of my work rather than the marketing and promotions that are necessary to be seen and heard in the art world.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
The best time for me is during the day. Not only is that my favorite time for light and contrast, but it is also when I am at my most creative.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
Essentially, my work has not changed that much – I focus on the same subject matter, I use the same mediums (most of the time), and my theme is virtually unchanged. On the other hand, I am more bold and no longer fearful when I approach a new piece. I am also more willing to push the boundaries. Things I would have never thought I would broach are now at the forefront of my pieces. When dealing with the subject of racism and racial classification, you never know how it will be received because it is often the “elephant in the room.” I knew that if I wanted my message to be heard, I needed to make people listen.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
My family has definitely had an impact on my artwork seeing as they are the basis of my theme. Not only has my family been my number one support system, but they have also raised me with the strength to tackle such a daunting subject. If I did not have the upbringing that I did, I do not think that I would have the courage to be an artist, and especially one that confronts racism.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
It would probably be something food-related. I love food – eating it, cooking it, learning about it, etc.. It is also an occupation where I get to reach a broad audience with something that I have made, that comes from my heart and hands, and I find such gratification in that.
My artwork is a dialogue that explores the complicated world of racial identity and the desire to find my place within it as a multiracial individual. The basis of the series
emanated from my need to examine the dualities and dark truths of America. My distinctive perspective on a hidden history manifests itself through art that is sometimes sardonic, sometimes somber, but always compelling. I see a parallel with today’s perception of race and yesterday’s reality.
Taryn Wells was born in Massachusetts in 1981. She received a B.A. in Studio Art from Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.