Welcome back! This week’s interview goes in a slightly different direction from our usual programming. Tay Wetherbee is a visual artist currently based in Pittsburgh. However, this post still isn’t straying too far from my usual spotlight on fiction creators since many of Tay’s works take inspiration directly from literature, including the stories of Edgar Allan Poe.
Tay and I met when one of her installations went up at Crazy Mocha in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood, and because I’m the weird girl at coffee shops who talks to random people and hands out her business card at every opportunity, she and I soon connected on Facebook. Recently, we discussed her background as an artist and where she sees her career heading in the future.
A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become an artist, and who are some of your favorite artists?
I think, for me, I never made a decision to become an artist. I just was. I was born singing, dancing, and drawing. My decision to become a professional artist happened in high school after taking my very first art class. I “lettered” three times over in art that year. In competition, I received the honor of one of my paintings touring the entire state of Texas (where I grew up) for a full year. Then I sold my very first piece for $18,000 at 17 years old. My decision made sense and felt like the right path.
The most influential artists in my life have been Robert Rauschenberg, Dave McKean (who many know as the illustrator for numerous Neil Gaiman books), and my college instructor in mixed media at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, Robert Maloney.
Your painting, “Tell Tale,” which is currently on display in Pittsburgh, takes inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Do you often integrate literature or other elements of the horror genre into your artwork?
I actually consistently use text and literature in my artwork. My art degree is in illustration, and while my work is largely considered “fine art,” my love for telling stories through art is still apparent in my work through use of quotes, lyrics, and sheet music, which propel and support what is happening in the images in the foreground. Additionally on a design level, I enjoy juxtaposing graphic elements of text with fluid ink painting.
As for horror-themed literature, I have always been a fan of Edgar Allan Poe and am very much moved by the darker moments of Shakespeare. I plan to create many more pieces that are charged with those kinds of moments.
Which medium is your favorite as a visual artist?
I work in mixed media. This means every medium is within my reach. The most common mediums I work with are India ink, concentrated watercolor, a process called ink transferring, and acrylic paint. My surface of choice is reclaimed wood. I love to show viewers age and distress, like old nail holes in wood surfaces, which can be transformed into something beautiful and thought-provoking. This process is derived from my interest in the Buddhist teaching of Wabi-sabi, the aesthetic of imperfection.
Where would you like to see your art career in five years?
I will be taking commissions, participating in art shows, loving life, and forever creating, back home in Boston.
Out of your works, do you have a personal favorite?
I am partial to this postcard-sized piece I created on a whim in college, of a Ferris wheel, with haunting text torn from an old book. In a body of work that is mostly large scale, it’s the smallest of my works, yet so powerful to me.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions planned? Any other places where fans will be able to catch your work?
My work can be seen in the upcoming issue of The Hour After Happy Hour Review, and on display at Crazy Mocha Bloomfield in Pittsburgh, PA; Evolver Tattoo, Pittsburgh, PA; and RAW Artists Showcase 2016, Boston MA