By Jennifer Sadler
As the most comprehensive online events guide and resource for arts and culture in central Ohio, ColumbusArts.com offers a virtual guide through the Columbus art world with a searchable database of events, concerts, performances and more. ColumbusArts.com is an engaging place for artists and arts organizations to share what they do, with an average of 30,000 users per month. The ColumbusArts.com Artist Directory allows visual, performing and literary artists to create a profile and portfolio to showcase their work—for free—and enables art enthusiasts to easily search for and connect with them. Our monthly ColumbusArts.com artist profile series features interviews with a few of the many talented individuals who make up central Ohio’s thriving creative community. Local artist, Amandda Tirey Graham, came to Columbus to attend The Ohio State University on a music scholarship. But after meeting and taking some classes under local legendary artists Queen Brooks and Pheoris West, Tirey Graham ended up finding her true passion--painting.
GCAC: Tell us a bit about yourself. Are you from Columbus? If not, what brought you here?
ATG: I'm originally from Dayton Ohio—just had my 20th high school reunion! I came to Columbus to study at OSU on a music scholarship...classical clarinet. I did very well and moved up fast in performance but because of my extreme dyslexia I pretty much failed in the aural training and music theory, the stuff that will get you to a diploma. In my second year I had to take classes outside my major, so I opted for beginning drawing with Queen Brooks. I'll never forget her, and I thank her when I see her today! That was the beginning of my drifting away from music. It was tough tell my parents that though.... they bought the fancy clarinet!
GCAC: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue working as a painter?
ATG: During that first drawing class, Queen had us doing perspective drawing in one of the art buildings, Hopkins Hall. There was a faculty show in the gallery and that’s when I first saw the work of Pheoris West. I was floored by the beauty of his painting ability; the vibrant colors and seamless motion of a tall woman walking through the painting in a polka dot dress and red high heels. It was ghostly and strong with masks like silhouettes and a glowing aura. It took my breath away and I was determined to meet him and ask how to get into his classes. Another meeting I'll never forget... I was a little star struck when I meet Pheoris for the first time and stumbled on my words. "I LOVE YOU" came out first! Like a deer caught in the headlights, he patiently and humorously listened while I corrected myself. He told me how to get into his painting classes and the courses I would have to take to get there. I dropped out of music after that quarter and never looked back.
GCAC: Are there any particular individuals who’ve been a big influence and encouragement for you in following your dream to become a visual artist?
ATG: Pheoris West is my friend and mentor and has always supported and encouraged me throughout the years, and I owe him a great deal for opening up my talents. My father, John Mayo Tirey, however, is the reason art is in my heart and soul. I grew up watching him pin stripe old classic cars, etch glass windows, hand paint hundreds of signs for his design business—and create science fiction fantasy art on the side. My dad, still today, is always making art out of anything and everything. We have painting play dates in his barn where we throw paint around and try fun techniques. I would say there's a touch of him in almost all of my paintings. People who know us will say we influence each other a great deal.
GCAC: You have such a unique style – like looking at cells under a microscope. What led you to explore this creative approach to your work?
ATG: I’ve always been fascinated by everything biological and astrological! From bugs and plants, to stars, human diseases, to black holes and coronas. I'm amazed by the diversity and ambiguity in all things macro vs. micro and inner space vs. outer space. I love the idea that we don't know everything, and that we may never know it all. So, I'm just gonna make a bunch up; create my own cultures, tissue samples, diseases and nebulas.... all more beautiful when we are able to see them magnified in a Petri dish or even closer and more intimate than our telescopes can show us. I like to fantasize that my work is the real thing; just beyond what the human eye is supposed to ever see and it's all a big secret I've been let in on! So, when coupled with a large range of vibrant colors, the possibilities are infinite. I'm having fun with paint—but have a lot of work to do!
GCAC: How do you think your approach and style reflect your personality or outlook about life?
ATG: Hmn....I'm a little funny. Maybe a little strange and weird. Maybe my head is in the clouds and I wonder about the big stuff too much. I'm a colorful person with a bright spirit. I believe in balance, moderation, self control and order. Yet I play hard at recess and try not to take things too seriously.
GCAC: You are highly active in the arts community, having served on gallery boards and as a committee member for Creative Arts of Women (CAW). Painting is pretty much a solitary endeavor. What draws you to get involved in the community projects? How does being a part of a collective influence your own work, having that interaction and inspiration from other artists?
ATG: It’s just that—Inspirational! The ladies in CAW are all so diverse and dynamic in personality and art work. We all feel so good when we are together and you want to make the ladies proud by putting your best foot forward and participating in group shows. Our collective energy is awesome... and that confidence carries on to our own individual endeavors. As for other community projects, they keep me connected to the arts in Columbus and that, too, is inspirational and makes me feel whole. There is so much talent in Columbus—it's sometimes hard to keep up! There's opportunity everywhere. Specialty groups, collectives, studio groups, co-ops, non profits, small and large galleries.... If you’re dedicated to your craft, there's a place for you. I like helping people find that way.
GCAC: What do you like most about living in Columbus? Do you feel like living here allows you to do the things you want and enjoy doing for fun, outside of your work as an artist?
ATG: I love that Columbus is forever growing and mutating. People come and go, businesses thrive and fail, the skyline changes, and the arts never die! The Columbus community is large and supportive of the arts. I feel very at home here. I don't think I've ever been bored in the 20 years I've been here. I currently live in German Village. It’s quiet and quaint. I can read a book or take our pups to the park. Take a scooter ride to a pool or walk to a patio bar to be social. There's always something to do, art to see and people to watch! Right now I'm a bit M.I.A. (more like missing the action!) because I'm getting ready for a big solo show and still have much to do!
GCAC: What shows or projects are you currently working on or have coming up?
ATG: I am feverishly working towards my solo show of all new paintings! Curious Cultures will open on Friday, August 3 at Ray's Living Room Contemporary Gallery with a reception from 6-9 p.m. The gallery is located at 17 Brickel St. in the Short North Arts District, and the show runs from August 3 to October 10.
To learn more about Amandda Tirey Graham and her work, visit her profile in the ColumbusArts.com Artist Directory or her website.
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Top image: orb slices, 10"x10" oil on canvas, 2012. Bottom image: extraterrestrial succulence, oil on canvas, 4.5'x2', 2012.