I Guess the Break’s Over

traci l turner, traci turner, artist, blog

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

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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.

Los Corazónes (parte uno)

"Corazón Azul" oil on wood panel. By Traci L. Turner.

“Corazón Azul” oil on wood panel. By Traci L. Turner.

Over the last 6 years or so, I gradually became more publicly expressive through my artwork about my experiences and feelings regarding romance and dating. This year I was inspired to revisit an old idea for a series that I contemplated a few years ago. Back then I found myself in deep thought and reflection about love, sexuality, dating and my place within all of that. The trails of thought kept leading me to heart symbols, probably because that’s the image that we always assign as the epicenter of all emotions about love. I wanted to find ways to incorporate hearts into my work and I wanted to paint them all the time. It was almost obsessive:
The Heart Balloon

Balanced Breakfast

 

traciturner_art_tracilturner_painting

A closeup of the bleeding or exposed left nipple motif that I use, which is also heart-related.

Traci L Turner, Traci Turner art, Nude Nite Tampa 2015

Heart pasties, even

I think it was a huge point of interest a few years ago because I was falling for someone around that time, and in hindsight, the experience and that person ended up being such a gamechanger in my life. I was captivated.

My approach to the original series of heart symbols was to paint hearts on a simple background, but to make them all different somehow by playing with color and mood. I think at that time my intention was to make a point about how every heart, just like every person, is unique, like snowflakes. I suppose one could go the route of seeing the heart symbol as how we have trivialized, commercialized and over-simplified love, but at the time I wasn’t thinking of it like that. I just thought it was a cute idea, and could be a fun on-going project. After thinking about it more, it felt too one-dimensional for me. I was even painting them in acrylic, which is a medium that I’m not totally comfortable using. Though it still seemed fun to try out, I couldn’t get 100% into it so I decided to shelve the idea until it felt right. As I went through the experience of that aforementioned love and dealt with the aftermath, I had a lot of growing pains and realizations in a short amount of time. I thought more and more about the current landscape of romance and dating, and about my own history with it. The deep thinking lead me back to reconsidering the heart series again, but this time I had a more weathered and realistic mindset. So was the start of the “corazónes.” Instead of the flat color and shapes that were part of the original approach, I opted for human hearts. I decided to use my medium of choice, oil paint, and employ the looser brushwork that has become my chosen style in recent years. I also started becoming attached to painting on wood panels, so along with the concept even the materials received an upgrade (before, I used cheap canvas board for those paintings).

The original concept for the heart series (left), and the current iteration (right).

The original concept for the heart series (left), and the current iteration (right).

The more current version feels like the way for me to go. It seems more mature, more layered and more meaningful than the original idea that I had. It’s just a better match overall, and I’m excited to move forward with it now, which is a necessary feeling. I’ve already done a human heart painting in this series that’s become one of my favorite pieces so far. I’ll do a post about that one next time.

I’m looking forward to using this idea as a springboard to experiment with many more color possibilities! Would love to know your thoughts in the comments.

**Read on to part 2**

Artist Talk – “InstaLove: #solodolo”

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I’m a 32 year old, never-been-married single black woman living in Reno. No roommates, no kids. No romantic prospects. No best friends. No family. I moved to Reno in my 29th year of age, right about the age where if one hasn’t freaked out about their life yet, they definitely are about to. But I breezed right through it and still remain mostly unaffected. Other than what I may have absorbed from society, I’ve never felt a real, immediate pressure to team up with someone. I may have put pressure on myself in the past, or have had strong suggestions by friends, but that’s about it. Over the years, I’ve become quite settled into a life of being singular.

The word “brave” has been thrown out there by some people to describe what I’m doing. Though it flatters me (I think), I don’t really understand why people say that. Is it brave because I’m a woman? Is it brave because I’m a woman my 30s? Is it brave because I’m a black woman in my 30s, living in a mostly non-black population? Or is it brave because I don’t give a shit about any of that? To me it feels like I’m just living my life. I’m not really risking anything that deep for me to see some kind of “bravery” in it. Being teamed up with someone isn’t something one can choose with just anybody. For it to be right, a lot of elements have to line up that are simply out of our control. If I’ve learned anything from Life and/or my parents, it’s that I have to be ok with MYSELF and with what I’M doing above all; then make adjustments as needed beyond that. Yes, I suppose it would be nice to have a partner sometimes for some things, but I’m not pressed at all. For me to want to align myself with another person, would have to take a really fuckin’ fantastic person and the right circumstances! In the 6 years that I’ve been single there has only been one or two people with whom I could’ve seen myself taking that kind of a risk. Outside of that, I’ve been ok with just me – for better or worse. It isn’t about distracting myself with work and friends or to “keep busy” to avoid loneliness. People can still feel lonely even with all that going for themselves. I’m also not trying to prove anything to anyone or to spite society. I’m just, being. For now, and probably the foreseeable future, I guess I have to accept “being” single. Maybe I will always stay this way. Would that be the worst thing? I’ve done so much by myself so far, and I like who I am and I like my general position in life, how different or bad would my life really be if I never fell in-step with anyone again? No one seems to want to admit this, but I know that it’s possible that I may never be with “the love of my life,” let alone even FIND a person like that if I haven’t already. I’m not sure yet what I think about that actuality. What I do know, is that I’d rather create a life and a mind for myself that isn’t dependent on whether I do have a partner or not.

The painting above is an important one to me. It’s not meant to be a lamentation of a love I don’t have, though I can see how one might think that right away. But those colors are not sad colors at all! For me it’s merely a statement of a truth in my life. The “solodolo” painting for me is more about a certain freedom than a cry to have a romantic love in my life. It seems like we hear about love found, love lost and the search for love all the time. What about accepting no romantic love at all? I’d like to hear more from that perspective. And not the “I don’t need no man,” or “These hoes ain’t loyal” type of shit. Though I’m sure it’s empowering to some, to me it reads as defensive or like an armor that people sometimes use to cover up a deeper pain. I see right through that. However what I’m talking about is more of a calm, content acceptance of a life that apparently many of us can’t imagine. A kind of life that we are inclined to take pity in when we see it in others.

I still don’t know if I’d use the term “brave” for singular people in the world, but I hope that the projection of pity or sadness will continue to be removed from the singular life.

Would love to know your thoughts in the comments.