BY SHALEEN DESTEFANO
Tya Alisa Anthony’s profound art explores ritual surrounding people of color. Living and working in Denver, she has positioned herself to have a strong voice in the art community and we are so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn more about her captivating work.
I traveled frequently as a child. In return, I am extremely inquisitive about exploring culture and the way humanity “works.” I spent nearly 10 years as a commercial photographer in Baltimore documenting the creative industry, neighborhoods, families and corporate clients. I had the honor of photographing some of the most influential artists, activists and entrepreneurs who in turn inspired the transition in my career more to become focused on my own art. Near the end of that place in my career, my time was spent traveling back and forth across the country, from Denver to Baltimore, photographing creative designs of other’s narratives. Although, I truly enjoyed the collaborative and constant traveling during that time, I yearned for more self expression as I had much to process internally while I explored my identity. Research, is a great part of my practice and working with identity requires a ton of examining and piecing material together in order to attempt to make sense of the whole. I believe this is what initially drew me to collage. I enjoy the ability to create narratives through a range of material.
As a traditionally trained photographer who has explored multiplicity, mirroring and layered compositions through portraiture, over time I became drawn to exploring physical layers which created borders, imposed boundaries and even created new meaning with each new layer. For me, the way the layers of material act in these ways then become a response and reflection of humanity and culture. In my practice, I typically cull generations upon generations of personal and public domain photographs, and illustrations similar to the same way I would flip through magazines and encyclopedias as a child after dinner. I am in search of individual pieces that can be removed to create new narratives. Once gathered, digital and analog materials blended together are then reprinted, copied and compiled in my RedLine Residency studio to be arranged and sorted into collage works. I research, study and practice working with natural elements, plants and herbs as a means of meditation. Searching for and practicing balance within, I am currently exploring what incorporating natural elements into my art practice allows me to discover. I have found a clear connection between the healing benefits of working with natural elements and practicing tactility in art making. I find that energy filled and charged objects hold the ability to reimagine narratives of origin, usage and ownership. All of which influence my desire to reflect art as cathartic method healing.
Growing up in a home that resembled our very own houseplant storefront, there is just no way I could not use botanicals one way or another in my work. The issue that I immediately found was how to represent nature in a new and interesting way while being eco-friendly at the same time. Of course this is where research comes in again drawing from those nostalgic feelings of being in my parent’s living room surrounded by life, leaves and love. I mine the internet’s free sources for hours searching for public domain imagery that I compile in numerous folders for future use. I also belong to several public domain sites that update through newsletters and blogs every month.
One thing we love about your work is how you collage and juxtapose these antiquated pictures against very modern ideas. It’s the space between these ideas that makes us, as the audience, very curious. Can you shed any light on this relationship?
Although I adore the discourse of necessary historical narratives, it is my intention in my practice to explore the unknowns of humanity just as much as the known in order to reimagine a place in time not inflicted by barriers.
You graduated From Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design with your Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree, (SUMMA CUM LAUDE) and you were honored as Valedictorian. Does this increase the pressure for you to succeed, which seems to be a never-ending struggle for so many artists?
I don’t think so. I have learned much about myself and what I want out of my artistic practice is to understand the ebb and flow of personal success. I attribute my drive to succeed to my family. As a young mother, wife and entrepreneur, transitioning to artist, I work to leave a forward thinking legacy for my children inspiring them to create their own paths and legacies of their own.
You serve on the Advisory Board for Leon Gallery, a non-profit gallery and creative space dedicated to mentoring emerging artists across multiple disciplines. Can you tell us a little more about Leon Gallery and your role on the board?
Leon Gallery as a non profit organization which supports the evolution of thought and discourse surrounding the arts. In contrast to the consumer-driven gallery driven by income and sales only, Leon places the artist at the forefront of their mission supporting professionals that will challenge and move the creative industry forward. My role on the board is to support Leon’s mission vision and values creating space, advice and support for growth and productivity while emerging artists and their vision of their practice as professional artists is realized.
Can you tell us about TANK Studios where you reside as an artist?
TANK Studios is filled with individual artists working under the same roof creating contemporary art for international and national galleries and museums. The studio is in a two level warehouse located in the heart of Denver sharing the same building with a carpentry company. The artists who work in the space range from painters, to sculptors, digital to analog all exploring the world of contemporary art human connection and diverse mediums.
How has Denver and working in Denver inspired and informed your work?
My work and practice have completely changed since living and working in Denver. Denver, of course, has its own voice which I truly appreciate but allows emerging artists to explore their voice and path in which they themselves choose. Coming from the East Coast to Denver was at first culture shock thinking about the rhythms of each place, but I welcome it gladly. The conversation of art is led by the artists of Denver supported by exhibition and academic spaces throughout the state and region connecting artists to opportunities in other states such as California and New Mexico. I personally have had the opportunity to search within inspired by my budding surrounding environment connecting me to the culture and beyond.
Denver’s art scene is definitely on the map. Are there any artists in particular that you are currently following?
Absolutely! I am following Lares Feliciano, Eileen Richardson, Laura Lee Shill, Ian Fischer, Trey Duvall, Theresa Clowes, James Overstreet, Alex Kilgore, Autumn Thomas, Jaime Carrejo, Amber Cobb, Melinda Kern, Drew Austin, Kenzie Sitterlrud…TANK Studio artists, RedLine Residency artists, Rochelle Johnson, Detour, Becky Wareingsteele, Mark Fitzsimmons, Bruce Price and George Perez to name a few.
I am currently exhibiting a permanent collection with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver in the Octopus Initiative Library where patrons can live with my work for up to ten months through a lottery system. I am a resident of RedLine Contemporary Art Center until 2020 where my work and process are available to the public. Five pieces of the series Organic Tarot, is available to view at the Center for Visual Arts as well as all current and archived works can be seen on my website. www.tyaanthony.com I am looking forward to continuing to work on the 78 piece large scale tarot card collection which will inspire the text for my personal memoir The Key.
We are so excited to see what the future holds for you and your work, Tya. Thank you for gifting us with your story and introducing us to your thoughtful art.