Briefly describe the work you do.
I investigate subtleties of human interaction, imagination, and transience through a network of organic linear forms that are continually emerging, growing, reaching, and intertwining. My paintings build and traverse paths between observation and invention, logic and emotion, similar to a mind filled with thoughts that sprout and extend, curl and unfurl, tangled like a mass of unwound string or a clustered mound of roots. The forms are invented, stemming from things such as rhizomes, ribbons, neurons, or strands of muscle tissue.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
As a child, I spent much of my time observing my surroundings and reflecting on the relationships between things. My father introduced me to concepts of East Asian philosophy at a young age, which influenced my fascination with the ephemeral, with the idea that everything is undergoing subtle and constant transformations.
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 practice of actually producing artwork is fairly traditional, painting for hours at a time in my work space; however, I draw inspiration from many other areas of my life, so I am always seeking new input from observations in nature, social interactions, research, or simple meditation and reflection. Art-making is not isolated to the studio; rather, it is a manifestation of my thinking process, a creative byproduct of my other experiences.
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?
Teaching at a university, I realize the potential for my motivation in creating and thinking about art to inspire my students. My excitement fuels theirs, and theirs fuels mine in return. When I first began teaching, I did not anticipate that this exchange of creative momentum would be so significant.
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?
My “studio” is in my kitchen, which makes it easy to roll out of bed and begin work first thing in the morning. I have always worked best early in the day, with a clear mind after a good night of sleep. My academic teaching schedule is such that I can set aside certain full days for painting, and I work best when I have a full focused work day, morning to night.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
My work has evolved quite a bit over the past five years. I began exploring these ribbon-like forms in 2009, drawing in graphite. They were tightly wound, intricate mounds of strands that made up still, quiet landscapes. Since then, they have transitioned into bolder colors, expanded in size, and become more dynamic and expressive in character and movement.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
I value every conversation, observation, and question, from mundane to profound, and consider all of these experiences as influence and inspiration to my work. A few of the professors and colleagues who have helped me tremendously throughout the years: Ralph Woehrman, Holly Morrison, Andrew Raftery, Nancy Friese, Henry Ferreira, Tonia Matthews, Amanda Burnham.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I thrive on visual stimulation, social interaction, and problem solving, so my occupation would have to be something that engages all of those things. I have been teaching drawing and printmaking at Towson University since 2008, and I find that helping individuals reach individual goals and find solutions to conceptual and technical problems is wonderfully challenging and rewarding. Other considerations include: Rock climber, children’s book author, or raw vegan chef.
Tanya earned a BFA in Drawing from Cleveland Institute of Art in 2003 and an MFA in Printmaking from Rhode Island School of Design in 2006. She currently resides in Baltimore, MD and has been teaching at Towson University since 2008.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.