Artist Talk: ever-present

traci turner, art, traci l turner

I’ve finally gotten around to adding selected works from my show, “ever-present,” from this past June. The work won’t be new to those who follow me online or have seen it in-person, but to anyone that’s been waiting for a more in-depth post about the show – I thank you for your patience. I have so much gratitude and appreciation towards everyone that took the time to visit Reno Art Works during the show’s run, as it was a presentation that I took very much to heart. I think this was probably the first time in my burgeoning art career where I felt very emotionally attached to how people were going to respond to the work. Up until this show, I think that I’ve been able to maintain a healthy level of detachment: invested enough to care about my work and to share it, but not so much that my ego would be bruised if someone didn’t like it. I think that I was so nervous and affected this time because of the subject matter. With ever-present, I directly addressed some intense emotions from points in my romantic life. I’ve certainly touched on it before in my work but to be honest, I didn’t delve that deep within. I deliberately kept the topic close to the chest because for so long I wasn’t sure that I wanted to have that level of transparency with the world. Perhaps I was ashamed of those feelings. Showing vulnerability is one thing, and it is a major key to the work that I do, but I don’t want to appear weak. It’s all fun and games until someone breaks your heart and you’re told that you have to “just move on.” Then what?

There’s something about growing up as a black woman that makes one feel like you can’t, or shouldn’t, express sorrow or anguish over losing a romantic partner – especially if it’s a man. “Niggas ain’t shit,” “Dick comes a dime a dozen,” “I can do bad all by myself,”…you know the drill. There’s a sort of pressure to always appear like you have it together and that you’re impenetrable. And if you’re stuck on a man, then well…you a weak bitch. Plain and simple. I don’t think that I’m weak, I just have an extremely hard time letting go of special people. And I don’t want to be judged negatively for that. Suffice it to say, I don’t have an easy time admitting or working through heartache. I have very supportive friends and family that I can talk to, but shit, there’s a deep seeded sadness over some of these experiences I’ve had that I would never express to them even. It made sense to me to keep a lot of my struggles with matters of the heart to myself. However, over the years I’ve learned that sometimes no amount of pulling it together and shoving on can change how you feel about someone. In a case like that the best you can hope for, is to make different decisions moving forward. Because if you were able to reach that level of openness with a person, where any action they take can affect you that deeply, you can’t take that back. There’s no casually glossing over an experience like that. They’re a part of you now, bruh, whether you get over the person or not.

As with a lot of people, I find myself confused yet fascinated by romance and the part it plays (or doesn’t play) in my life. Since moving 3000 miles away from my hometown almost 4 years ago, I’ve hit the six year mark of being without any committed romantic relationship and I entered my 30s. I say that in order to provide some context to where I am in life, not to pity myself, for the record. Though I don’t consider myself to have a particularly strong desire to couple-up (but I’m mostly open to it), I do find myself constantly making observations about couples and singles, and my place within the ever-changing dating landscape. I write about it in my journals A LOT. There are many years-worth of journal entries where I’ve written a plethora of positive, forlorn and complicated passages about my romantic life and what I’ve picked up from observing things around me. I mean, it’s probably obsessive at this point. Those journal entries provided the backdrop for the work in ever-present. I think the combination of the isolation I struggle with in my (fairly) new home, navigating through the end of a romantic involvement that was a game-changing experience for me and falling into heavy self-reflection through old journal entries brought me to a tipping point. Just writing it all out or talking about it wasn’t good enough anymore. I decided that it was finally time to start addressing some of these things through color.

traci l turner, art, traci l turner, painting

InstaLove: #doyoulikemeornah
Oil on canvas
by Traci L. Turner

So did being more intentional about expressing these private thoughts and emotions through my art help me get over some kind of emotional hump? Did I learn anything?  Yes and no. I did learn to be less afraid to be this open in my work. Extending myself in this way allowed me to connect with others on a deeper and fulfilling level. The outpouring of compassion and tenderness I received in response to the work was staggering. I suppose I knew that no one would be outwardly rude about it, but I didn’t expect as much positivity either. Opening up and sharing myself, made strangers feel safe to open up to me in a way that probably would’ve never happened any other way. To be able to connect with people through my artwork, and to have those moments to offer comfort to one another about very personal and sensitive topics regarding matters of the heart was a life-affirming experience. I think I must have needed that as much as they did. I am thankful to all of the visitors for being so understanding and kind to me, they made it easier for me to get through it and to feel encouraged about what I’m doing as an artist. It’s an incredible feeling to know that I can offer a perspective that people find refreshing, authentic and relatable. I definitely have a little more relief knowing that the personal experiences I touched on were not uncommon. The only detractor is that I wish all of this helped me improve my current outlook about my personal dealings with romance/dating. I still struggle a lot, and although I discovered that art-making can be a good outlet for me, just having a release isn’t enough. But I suppose that’s a completely separate issue that I won’t talk about here. At any rate, please visit the gallery page for ever-present to view some of the stand-out pieces with accompanying captions where noted. The captions are either direct quotes from my personal journals (in the same vein as my short “Slump” series), quotes from personal conversations or were found.

As always, I would love to hear what you have to say about the work, this blog post or if you have something on your heart that you need to bare. Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

I Guess the Break’s Over

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As I’ve started to turtle back into my artlife and art-related work inside and outside of the studio, I’m excited and probably a little bit intimidated. A lot of positive things have happened so far this year in my artlife which have been very encouraging and motivating. However, building and maintaining some kind of momentum is an undertaking in which success is varied and elusive. I’m not really looking forward to diving back into that pool.

Thinking back on the two last years, my busiest and most productive years so far, I learned that it’s not all about just making what you want then hanging out with your friends and attendees at art openings. I learned a lot about time-management and process, marketing, and burn-out. On top of all that, it was something that I had to walk through alone most of the time. The solitude of being an artist and making art definitely hit me hard in the face. I found that I had to make several adjustments in order to counter-balance it and to ensure that I was fulfilling a certain level of social interaction and physical activity to preserve my sanity. I suppose I could paint with a friend or with a group, but I know that I’m most productive and comfortable working alone so I just deal with whatever comes along with it. This year I think I was able to juggle everything so much better than last year, especially mentally. So that’s something.

Lips Study Oil on gessoed board, 2016 by Traci L. Turner

Lips Study
Oil on gessoed board, 2016
by Traci L. Turner

During my summer break, I found myself in a deep stew of contemplation about my artlife, my personal life and the next steps with everything. With the imminent change of season, I’m seeing a concurrent shift in my attitude and focus. My hope for the rest of the year is to continue to educate myself on the various aspects of pursuing an art career in this era, to make more work and continue to put myself out there. I think the work that I’ve done over the last couple of years has been a good start, but I’ve been thinking lot about what it means to make a series and how to expand upon the ideas that I’ve touched on thus far. With each show I’ve done, looking back I think it only touched the tip of the iceberg of what I’m interested in expressing with my work. In order to take things to the next level I think I’ll have to grind into those themes to get to the heart of it all for me. Then, perhaps I’ll be able to have a more defined identity as an artist, which is something that I’m continuously seeking to mold and put into words.

Speaking of putting shit to words, among the first tasks I’ve given myself was to update a few things on this site. My bio and artist statement needed to be cleaned up. I swear I tweak my artist statement at least twice a year, which is probably normal (I hope). For me, the core of the message is about the same I guess, I just keep finding better, more concise ways of saying it as I go along. Check out the current iteration of it…while it lasts. It’s constantly evolving.

Another task that’s on deck is cleaning up my gallery. Damn son, I can’t tell you how long I’ve been thinking about that! I think I just have to categorize it better. I hadn’t really figured that out until…this morning? Literally this morning before finishing this blog post. So, now that I have a better idea of how to update my gallery I’ll have to show that some love over the next few days. I also have been trying to figure out how to reintroduce my shop for those interested in buying originals. Still not solidified, but I think I almost have it. Finally, I will be adding selected works from my ever-present show, with the original captions that I used from the exhibit along with a full blog post about the inspiration for it. Be sure to follow me online (FacebookInstagram), subscribe to my monthly newsletter, or just check back here at your convenience if you want to learn more about that.

All the other shit that I have in the works is mainly projects for other people, and possibly my own podcast or art vlog on YouTube. Probably just more videos in general, because why not? It can’t hurt. Oh, and probably more blog posts. Because I like writing and talking to y’all.

That’s it for now I think. If there’s anything you want to see on the site, or want me to talk about or share in my blog, or if there’s something I’m already doing well that you like please let me know in the comments! I certainly want to hear it.

A Critique from the Art Prof

I recently had a large amount of my work submitted for an art critique by Rhode Island School of Design art professor, Carla Lieu, who runs the blog Art Prof. It’s been over a decade since I had a serious, academic critique of my art and I felt like I was at the point where I needed a new perspective and a little bit of guidance for the next steps in my career. I agreed to allow my critique to be posted publicly on the Art Prof blog, YouTube and any of Carla’s other outlets in hopes to provide other artists and art enthusiasts an example of a professional constructive evaluation of art.

I found my experience with Carla to be easy and extremely helpful. I was pleasantly surprised by the feedback I received with my critique. The aspects that I expected to get lampooned were never brought up at all, and the praises were very encouraging to hear. I thought that the criticism was fair and pretty much spot-on. Since I’ve recently been wrestling with myself about my work, it felt good to know that my instincts weren’t too far off.

If you’re an artist that’s in a rut and would like fresh eyes on your work, I definitely recommend that you employ her services. If you do, be sure to let me know how it went!

Los Corazónes (parte dos): El Chocolate

elchocolate

El Chocolate” Oil on wood panel, 2016. By Traci L. Turner.

In a previous post I talked a bit about the human hearts that I started painting. I think that I’m going to zero in on that and continue to paint different hearts, with varying color combinations and other elements. With the heart painting above, I think I began to veer off in a direction that had more of a message or significance to me than the others so far. So much so, that I became attached to it – which is really rare for me when it comes to a piece of my own work. So I decided to keep it for myself. It just felt like “my” painting.

I swear the concept for this piece has been in development off and on for at least 2 or 3 years. Some time ago I was so inspired by strong romantic feelings for someone in my life, that I wanted to make a painting that described what was swirling around within me. As wonderful as it all looked and felt, I was stumped because there really isn’t any one way to describe falling in love with a person. What can be said or shown for it that we haven’t heard or seen before? After a while I figured that it was a lost cause. I was trying to condense a concept that is abstract, and yet so specific, into a single image. It was a lot harder than I originally anticipated, so I shelved it for a while. As I became more comfortable with opening up about matters of the heart in my work, it seemed time to revisit the concept for this painting about what it’s like for me to fall for someone.

Even though the situation that inspired my desire to create the painting ended up dissipating, I was still very interested in describing the feeling that I had. It felt natural to me to use a food reference in the piece because something about the joy of consuming a meal reminds me of what it’s like to be so excited about a new love that you want to consume everything about the person. Any amount of time you have together never seems like enough. Every new thing you learn about them is so interesting that it makes you want to unlock even more information, no matter how mundane or unoriginal it is. You can always make room for one more glance, an extra caress, or another chance to fuck. Hell, even silence together is an activity that one wouldn’t mind stretching until infinity. You want more and more and more of them, and hopefully the other person wants more of you too.

What makes me want more and more until I pass out? Chocolate covered strawberries! My gawwwd, I could eat them forever if my body would let me. I think chocolate-covered strawberries are such a perfect combo of everything I could want in a treat. I’m not really a huge fan of chocolate itself, but dip a strawberry in it and I’m fighting to be first in line. They’re so decadent, juicy, sticky, sweet and they make me happy. Of course there are other great things to eat, which I enjoy in their own context, but there aren’t many things that I can confidently give the title of “I love it so much I want to eat it forever.” With that train of thought, along with the several other connotations that could be attached to chocolate-covered strawberries, it wasn’t long before I connected the idea with the human heart series that I started. It seemed like the perfect match for me to describe how it is for me to be in love with someone. But instead of sharing the piece by selling it or gifting it to someone, I decided that it was something that I needed to keep for myself – to serve as a reminder of what I need to feel in any possible love situations in the future. Over the years I’ve been able to become in-tune with what feels wrong for me in a romantic relationship, but unfortunately I’ve recently realized that I am now unclear about what is right anymore. The outline for that used to be so vivid and obvious, and usually correct, but now it seems that I have lost that compass for myself. Perhaps there’s a part of me that needs to assign some sort of hope somewhere, and my strange attachment to El Chocolate and continuing to use it as inspiration could be an example of me searching for whatever that hope is. I’m not totally sure if that’s what it all is yet, but I might be close.

Chime in on any of this if you want. I’d love to know your thoughts about this post, about love, where you are with it and how you would describe the feeling for yourself. Hit me up in the comments section.

Artist Talk: Some thoughts and Advice

I was approached by the folks from Reno Art Works and Monarch Films to do a short interview about myself and the works in my show, “ever-present.” It was a lot of fun and they asked some great questions. Check it out above and add your thoughts in the comments.