A Denver Artist Explores Identity Through Art
Tya Alisa Anthony's work observes, reimagines and preserves inclusive spaces for People of Color through photography, collage and reliquary
“Growing up traveling and moving so frequently for most of my childhood placed an innate desire to explore the depths and history of the documentation of humanity,” recalls Tya Alisa Anthony.
The Denver-based artist was born in Colorado Springs, moved to Frankfurt, Germany and then landed in her parents’ hometown of Baltimore, Maryland in the late 80’s after moving frequently around the U.S.
“I currently reside in Denver now as I relocated my entire family here in 2011 from Baltimore seeking clarity about my identity,” says Anthony. This exploration of her identity is exhibited in her stunning art featuring photography and collage.
She discovered an interest in creativity and art at a young age, inspired by her parents’ consistent use of a polaroid camera. She spent over ten years practicing professional portrait photography in Baltimore, and decided to come back to Colorado, her place of origin.
Her work, including performance, photography and installations, explores identity and representation of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in the art world, highlighting both the past and future generations.
“My process has always been a ritual of observation,” Anthony says. “Whether observing my past, surroundings, current events or self, I begin there. Meditation follows, allowing me to clear my mind and upcoming series where I focus on an intuitive start to freely explore the narrative of choice and multiple mediums.”
Anthony received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree, (SUMMA CUM LAUDE) honored as Valedictorian, from Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. She is currently a TANK Studios artist, 2018 RedLine Residency Artist and serves on the Advisory Board for LEON Gallery, a non-profit gallery and creative space dedicated to mentoring emerging artists across multiple disciplines, along with the Board of Tilt West, a non-profit dedicated to fostering critical dialog in art and culture in Denver.
She has exhibited in Baltimore, MD and the Colorado region, including a permanent collection commissioned by the Octopus Initiative and Museum of Contemporary Art, Center for Visual Arts, LEON Gallery, and at RedLine.
We sat down with Tya Alisa Anthony to hear more about her process and inspiration.
How does your history and background inform your art?
My father and mother apparently documented everything they could in their travels on film and with the emergence of the polaroid camera. I too became very interested in that creative practice at a very early age.
After over 10 years of being a practicing professional portrait photographer in Baltimore, I decided to expand my horizons and return to my place of origin here in Colorado. I returned to college much later in life than expected and found a calling in expressing narratives of the marginalized and underrepresented.
After graduating from Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design with a degree in Photography and Video, I became even more interested in archives and representation of BIPOC in the art world. I wanted to explore the archives of People of Color that had been forgotten or stored away over the last century. With the advancement of technology, I am inspired to speak to those archives and explore how our current social development impacts future generations.
“I wanted to explore the archives of People of Color that had been forgotten or stored away over the last century.”
Your work “explores themes of Identity seeped in Ecology, Ritual, Time and Space.” What’s important to you about highlighting those connections?
My identity is seeped in Ecology as my paternal and maternal lineages are greatly connected to farming, agriculture and of course sharecropping historically in this country.
Exploring my DNA through a collaborative project with Thomas “Detour” Evans titled “They Still Live,” I have traced many generations of caretakers of the land and humanity.
Ritual immediately follows creating a reminder of how we as humanity could and should honor, preserve and provide for all parties involved in our existence including natural elements.
I believe Time is relative and Space is vast as a metaphor and physical component in my work as a photographer. They each have inspired me to slow down in my research and how I place my subjects within them.
Your “Organic Tarot” series is a stunning juxtaposition of color and black+white, nature and humans/man-made work. Tell me about your inspiration for this series.
That’s exactly how I feel when I’m creating each piece in this series. Flashing back through time, moving forward in this current space, I’m inspired by humanity’s alignment with nature and self and the OTHER, attempting to connect those threads of life in order to make sense of not only personal purpose and how I can as an artist express those juxtapositions, but express to viewers the vibrance in each moment in these connections.
Similarly, “Black Mirrors” is soul-stirring, especially considering the current protests against police brutality and systemic racism in America. Tell me more about this work.
“Black Mirrors” began as an attempt to explore how to pay respect to those who have lost their lives through police brutality. I then began to investigate how to continue the conversation through creating memorial objects which create space for the viewer to look/see themselves in the subject’s name, silhouette and an actual mirror. As protests continue to rise over these systemic injustices, I intuitively seek ways to create space for justice and clarity, I felt compelled to share this work after the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Then the names kept accumulating.
“As protests continue to rise over these systemic injustices, I intuitively seek ways to create space for justice and clarity.”
Where can we find your work?
You can find my work currently at my residency studio at Redline Contemporary Art Center, (when we safely are able to open again) on my website, and the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) Denver Octopus Initiative gallery on the first floor of the Museum.
What does the future hold for you and your work?
I am looking forward to curating a few gallery, botanical and museum spaces in Boulder and Denver in the Spring and Summer of 2021, along with operating and curating my very own online Gallery for BIPOC for BrownandHealthy.com called “Mahogany Vu.”
“I’d wish to personally thank the entire board of Tilt West, Louise Mortorano and all of my RedLine family along with Eric Robert Dallimore and Eric Nord of Leon Gallery for continuing to be supportive of my journey as an artist and human being,” she says. “From their mentoring, friendship and space (metaphoric and physical), I’ve been honored to be my authentic self.”