Precarious Image: Tiffany Calvert’s Visiting Artist Lecture

By Julia Stevens /// Staff Writer

It was a pleasure to attend painter Tiffany Calvert’s thought-provoking lecture, “The Precarious Image.” The East Coast based artist is only in Portland for one year as she fulfills her role as a visiting professor at Reed College. She prefaced her lecture with the statement, “Never listen to what an artist says about their work, they never tell the truth,” displaying her truly out-of-the box mindset that is evident in every brush stroke.

Calvert’s art lies in a unique space somewhere between figuration and abstraction, as she aims to paint images that she proclaims as “both right and wrong.” She adds a new dimension to typical scenes by breaking images apart and weaving them back together. This obfuscation communicates the scene’s energy rather than its specific biographical narrative. Drawing from a diverse range of inspirational sources, her inspirations range from devastating natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, to taxidermy in history museums. As she combines these rich subject matters, she co-mingles past, present and future.

The lecturer’s underlying message was that the role of images is currently in a precarious, ever-changing place. Calvert expressed that when one searches for artwork on Google Images, that artwork is often placed next to an entirely unrelated image such as an advertisement. The meaning of a work changes when it intermingles with such unrelated images, and this relationship creates an entirely new context in which art is viewed. Like intermingling data on the internet, Calvert pairs together separate scenes in her paintings to create her own entirely new context.

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