Today we’d like to introduce you to Tori Tinsley.
Tori, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
In 2009, my mother was diagnosed with a rare brain disease called fronto-temporal degeneration (FTD). In simple terms, FTD creates holes where our language and personality are stored; thus, over time a person loses their sense of self and how they relate to the world. At the time, I was working as an art therapist but as my mother’s symptoms increased, I found it more and more necessary to create art around how this disease was slowly taking my mother away from me.
In 2012, I decided to take a break from art therapy and applied to Georgia State University’s MFA program in painting and drawing. Somehow, I was accepted into the program with the work I had been exploring since my mother’s diagnosis. GSU’s amazing fully-funded three-year program allowed me the time and critical feedback I needed to explore the significance of how this disease continues to change my relationship with myself and my mother and how my work is situated in the broader context of contemporary art. What came from this experience was a series of paintings and sculptures called “Hugs”. The hugs depict two abstract figures embracing with arms that are unattached and thus, unable to really hold on. And although, the idea of a hug is comforting, their bodies are so closely bound that they become enmeshed into a goopy blob. As one figure appears complacent, the other looks on with dread. These darkly humorous works represent the range of feelings found in caring for another; emotions that include comfort, discomfort, love, fear, longing, anger, sadness and hope. My work continues to evolve around the topic of losing my mom and now includes other pairings of figures, including two donkeys and some brightly colored toasts.
In 2016, I received a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant which enabled me to continue working on my art full-time. Last year was very busy for me with three solo exhibitions in Atlanta and Brooklyn and participating in the Wathall Fellowship program. Currently, I have work on display in Concourse E of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and am planning a November solo exhibition at HATHAWAY Gallery, which represents my work and is located on the Westside of Atlanta. You can learn more about me and my work at toritinsley.com.
Has it been a smooth road?
In terms of my art career, it has been a relatively smooth road. I attribute that to hard work, being open to critical feedback, being kind to others and lots and lots of good luck. In terms of my mother and her disease, it has been one of the most challenging and awful things, I have ever experienced and would never wish it on my worst enemy. My mother is still with us, although, she is in the later stages of the disease and requires constant care in terms of eating, dressing, bathing, etc. I pray everyday for her to be at peace and not have to suffer through this disease any more.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I specialize in making paintings about the complexities of caregiving. I’m known for my hug paintings and it makes me extremely happy when others can bring their own stories to my paintings.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I feel very supported by my fellow artists and those who currently collect my work here but my work doesn’t typically sell in Atlanta. I have better luck outside of the Atlanta area and I attribute that to the fact my work is colorful and challenging. For those exhibiting contemporary work in Atlanta, I feel more is better — the more our community is exposed to work that breaks ground, the more we will grow in our understanding and knowledge of contemporary art practice. My advice for artists new to the Atlanta area is to not get discouraged and keep making your work! I am hoping there will be more awareness of contemporary art as our community continues to develop and that those who have the ability to invest in art will start supporting our work on a more regular basis.
- Website: toritinsley.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: tori.tinsley