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West Boylston’s Tyler Vance Combines Archaeology and Art

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


"Leaf Magic," Tyler Vance

The unorthodox is the norm for West Boylston's Tyler Vance. He combines magic and artifact to create breathtaking imagery, symbolizing the past and days gone by.

"I like to have my pieces come across not as framed paintings in a gallery, but more as artifacts in a museum," says the artist. More specifically, he sees his work as part of a study of history and archaeology, an in-depth examination of different cultures, and the natural world that so inevitably binds us all together.

In speaking of people who may be lucky enough to come across his work he states, "I hope they get a sense of history and archeology, magic and artifact. I think the mystery of where my subjects came from or what kind of ritual or culture they portray is what should be conjured in people’s minds."

Currently, Vance's favorite subjects to portray in his art include old bricks, bones and dead leaves, or "objects that are vestiges of a previous life, presented in a reverential or magical setting." Most of his artistic work can be categorized as "still-life."

As a kid growing up just outside Salt Lake City, Vance was fascinated with the world fantasy and sci-fi. He played Dungeons and Dragons, and soon began drawing characters, swords and robots. A hobby soon became a passion. Vance would go on to pursue art in college thanks to encouragement from his wife, and received a BFA from the University of Utah and MFA from Utah State University.

To complete his MFA thesis, he created a show called "Monument" where he arranged stone-like monoliths depicting historical markers to a fictional hero in a circle.

He and his family moved to Massachusetts after his wife was accepted into UMass Medical School. Vance now teaches drawing at Assumption College.

Though his finished product is often extraordinary, the process to get there seems relatively straightforward.

"The compositions are simple (I’ve never been much of a designer); it’s more about the objects themselves – their form, texture and lighting, than the spaces they are in. And my pallet is always minimal, usually just four or five colors," he remarks.

"Reincarnate," Tyler Vance

Perhaps that is why, as opposed to many artists, he ultimately gets his fulfillment out of viewing and comprehending his finished product rather than participating in the formation of a particular piece.

"Of course, the urge to create is satiated by the process of making art, and painting is surely fun, but since my work is about creating an artifact, it’s the thing that’s made that brings me the most joy. Having that piece of archeology gets me one step closer in establishing a unified history in my work," he says.

When he draws, he likes using graphite on Bristol paper, because, as he states, "I love the control and fineness you can get with a graphite pencil. It also is comforting in a way – it reminds me of drawing when I was a kid and all I had was a school writing pencil."

When he paints he tends to use oil on panel, because "The oil has a richness to it, but it’s also a forgiving medium. I like prepping the panel with trowelled-on pumice grounds instead of plain gesso, which can be plasticky. I sand the ground fine, which gives the board a nice smooth stone-like feel. It’s an ideal painting surface for me."

The most important thing, however, for what Vance is trying to do, no matter the medium he chooses, is presentation, a presentation designed for a single purpose, to "imply there is a created world behind it."

"I just try to hint at a lost history, to create an archeological mystery for the viewer."

In the future, Vance will continue to build his repertoire and resume with the same purpose in mind. This Spring, he will be a visiting artist at Siena College in New York, where he will be jurying the annual student show, lecturing a few classes, and presenting a show of his new work.

In addition, in the next year, he will be putting together a major project with similar theme to his thesis involving "tombs" dedicated to characters from a fictional history.

"These will be large reliquary paintings with sculptural pillars next to them. Each painting will include artifacts describing the character, and the tombs will be set up as if they were being presented in a history museum," he states of the project. He hopes to show the finished product in the Worcester area.

To learn more about Tyler Vance and view his artwork, visit his website


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