Red Arrow Gallery | July 14–August 5
WORDS Kathleen Boyle
As a teenager, artist Tara Walters developed a strong understanding of art’s healing potential. Following a traumatic facial injury at the mere age of sixteen, visual art, specifically Abstract Expressionism, provided assistance with Walters’s four-year recovery. “I was raised in the DC metropolitan area and was constantly exposed to contemporary museums and galleries,” explained Walters. “It became a sort of instant therapy for me; painting was a source of catharsis. My mother later gave me a print of Jackson Pollock’s Number 7 (1951). I would visit this piece at the National Gallery of Art, and I began to sleep under it. As above so below, the work coaxed me to create.”
Such experience led Walters to pursue higher education in the visual arts: In 2016, she received her BFA in Painting from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and is relocating this summer to pursue a master’s degree at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Walters’s progress is bittersweet, though. Having moved to Nashville per the suggestion of artist Wendy White, Walters has flourished within the city’s art and music community. Her work has been featured in a number of exhibitions and is included in prominent public art collections such as the city’s Metropolitan Courthouse. Furthermore, Walters has been the Director of East Nashville’s Red Arrow Gallery. “In a nutshell, [Walters] plays quite a few roles in my business and my life,” stated Katie Shaw, owner of Red Arrow Gallery. “Gallery Director for the last two years, rostered artist for whom I’ve held two solo shows, and close friend. Her absence will be noticed, and she will be missed.” As part of Walters’s send-off, a solo exhibition of her work will be on view from July 14 through August 5 at Red Arrow.
“I am trying to push the processes of my elders further by demonstrating what it’s like to be a millennial in love with nature.”
Despite the emotional difficulty that can accompany pushing forward, Walters describes her experience in Nashville with full gratitude as she also looks towards Los Angeles in hopes to “expand [her] career and life.” And if Walters’s paintings thus far give any indication of what’s in store, it can be safely assumed that a solid future lies ahead for this artist. This is due not only to Walters’s advanced sensibilities of form and palette, but also to her unconventional methods. Walters quite literally paints with fire.
Citing artists Joan Miró, Tristan Tzara, Maya Deren, Julie Mehretu, and Lucy Dodd as primary influences, Walters discovered “fumage” while reading (in candlelight no less) an essay written by André Breton about various Surrealist practices. Developed in the early twentieth century, the process of fumage upholds residual gray and black smoke formations that occur upon a surface that has been held near a flame. “Being spiritual and going to the local synagogue, I remembered that I had a . . . seven-wick religious candle and began to try out this method,” explained Walters of her first experience with fumage. “It was an instant subliminal connection. I danced ballet for fifteen years, and I felt like a ballerina again as I began painting by holding the canvas with one hand above me and danced with what felt like a loaded paint brush where the paint never stops dripping. It was magic, and so I never stopped.”
This magic that Walters implores resonates upon the surfaces of her work. Harboring an ethereal quality, paintings such as Abracadabra (2017) offer a tease at the third dimension upon a large, flat, square linen plane. A soft combination of neutral tones respond to each other as they harmoniously conduct asymmetrical abstractions that suggest rhythm and order despite an apparent lack of repetition. The resulting imagery is suggestive of cloudlike formations, billows of thick air that one wants to see escape the constraints of their static medium. Like the Pollock painting Number 7 that provided nurture to Walters, so too does Abracadabra mediate sound and action integral to the human experience; although the paint has dried and the flame is snuffed, vitality remains. Walters achieves an emanating quality in her work that resounds within all truly successful art—a composition that embodies divinity in material form.
Such result is no accident. A self-declared nature enthusiast, Walters’s paintings are informed by established modernist ideology as it applies to perceived conflicts between technology and the environment. “I am not a huge fan of artificial light . . . With my new works, I am trying to push the processes of my elders further by demonstrating what it’s like to be a millennial in love with nature,” explained Walters. “There’s a repetition in this work that resembles the digital age and how we are moving forward so fast and everything is turning artificial, but we still are pleading to be one with nature.”
Although saturated in smoke, Walters’s paintings are conversely a breath of fresh air, manifestos that earnestly seek purity and truth in the digital age.
Tara Walters’s exhibit Myth and Ethos is on view at Red Arrow Gallery July 14 through August 5. For more information, visit www.theredarrowgallery.com.