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Traveling artist Tori Tinsley showcases work in Broyles

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Throughout the year, art of many different mediums and from a multitude of artists circulates in and out of the Broyles arts gallery. During the month of October, the gallery featured the unique work of Tori Tinsley, a local artist and Westminster alumna.

“After leaving Westminster, Tinsley also left art for a while,” said upper school drawing and painting teacher Pamela Martinez. “She ended up returning to art about 12 to 13 years later after realizing that art is what she wanted to pursue.” The exhibit primarily showcased Tinsley’s Hugs collection, which depicts two amorphous characters in a series of embraces. In each painting, the characters are in a different whimsical location. Tinsley draws inspiration for her work from her mother’s ongoing battle with dementia.

“Generally speaking, the two characters in Tinsley’s art represent her and her mother,” said junior Taylor Boozer, a student in Portfolio: Drawing and Painting. “Usually, one of the characters looks happy while the other one looks lost and confused. In each painting, the emotions of the characters interchange between Tinsley and her mom, so sometimes the happy one is Tinsley and the confused one is her mother, while other times it is the other way around.” Tinsley’s mother was diagnosed in 2009 with a rare form of dementia known as frontotemporal degeneration. A year later, Tinsley began to pursue art and produce works that encapsulated the emotion behind the process of her mother losing her identity.

“In my classes, we talked about character design with Tinsley because she uses these seemingly PG personalities in her paintings to convey very complex emotions,” said Martinez. “She had to develop this language with the characters to communicate the depth of emotion surrounding her mom’s dementia and the process of losing her mom in that way.” Although Tinsley experiments with many mediums, she specializes in acrylic painting.

“Tinsley’s artistic style is what is called painterly, meaning that her work is characterized by the colors, strokes, and textures utilized,” said Martinez. “Although her work has a theme of sadness, she uses a humorous aesthetic to draw in her viewers.” Tinsley is known for her color-saturated paintings, which she paints using softer strokes. By illustrating her characters with exaggerated facial expressions, Tinsley’s paintings explore dark humor and layered emotion.

“For me, seeing Tinsley’s style of painting was really cool,” said junior Catherine Wang, another student currently enrolled in Portfolio. “She works very differently from [how] I do because she creates her work in a continuous, fluid manner, whereas I am very meticulous and spend [more] time on my work. She also uses unique colors and strokes to capture her emotions in a really admirable and different way.” In addition to painting, Tinsley is also a prolific sculptor.

“[Tinsley’s] sculpting process is very fluid; she creates her sculptures and then draws them, or she will paint something and create a sculpture based on it,” said Martinez. “Often artists buy objects of inspiration from the store, but this idea of creating your own inspiration is something I hope my students are inspired by.” Similar to her paintings, Tinsley’s sculptures are also in response to her mother’s continued battle with dementia. Tinsley has also created many pieces inspired by her own transition into motherhood after welcoming her son Callan.

“I think Tinsley’s sculptures are very interesting,” said Boozer. “They are very different from her paintings, yet they are still abstract.” Throughout the month, Tinsley taught lessons to upper school visual arts classes and gave sculpture demonstrations to the more advanced art classes.

“When Tinsley visited my class a few weeks ago, she talked about the abstract style she uses and also did a demo on her sculpture technique, which I really enjoyed,” said Wang. The purpose of the demos was for the students to draw inspiration for their own projects. Following her visit to Westminster, the students began a sculpture project based on Tinsley’s method of sculpting out of cardboard, tape, and paint.

“I thought using cardboard and tape to create sculptures would be easy, but it is actually kind of difficult, because cardboard is very flat and lacks dimension,” said Boozer. “I have more of an appreciation for her sculptures and the process behind them now that we are recreating them in art.” Similar to how every artist has their own individual style, each artist also has a different process of creating artwork. While some artists prefer a more structured mode of production, others are drawn to having a more fluid process of developing their works.

“Tinsley is very comfortable with drawing and painting, and she wanted to teach the students to be freer with their mediums and to trust their own skills and intuition in creating art,” Martinez said. “She does this herself by layering and layering her art until it turns out to be the right image she wants to convey. In other words, she figures her art out as she goes.” For flourishing young artists, drawing inspiration from experienced artists is vital for the development of their own artistic identity.

“I think it’s cool how Tinsley lets her initial idea for a piece of art change and evolve,” said Boozer. “My favorite work in the exhibit is Parkside Hug, which depicts Tinsley’s reoccurring characters hugging as one smiles and the other is in obvious.” Outside of Westminster, Tinsley continues to inspire many artists through her unique paintings and sculptures. Tinsley’s works can be found in the Hathaway Contemporary Gallery in Atlanta and many other museums and exhibits throughout the country.

“Through Tinsley’s exhibit and lessons, my hope for the students is that they realize the importance of having freedom in their own art through color, expression, and having trust in themselves,” said Martinez.

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Traveling artist Tori Tinsley showcases work in Broyles