Tammy Jo Wilson
I’m able to share my experience making a living in the arts while doing social justice work with students because L&C has always been supportive of me as an individual.
Department or Office
What three words would you use to describe Lewis & Clark?
Congratulations on being one of the featured artists in the exhibition Black Artists of Oregon at the Portland Art Museum. How would you describe your work? What media do you work in?
I’m primarily a painter these days. I have also done a lot of work with photography in the past. I sometimes describe my paintings as figurative organic abstraction, meaning I reference organic life in a non-realistic way. I often position abstracted black figures in ethereal open spaces.
What themes do you address in this exhibition?
My painting in the exhibit at PAM is titled She is the Seed. It’s painted on a wood panel with a base layer of metallic gold paint. The painting is of the silhouette of a black female figure among branches of a beautyberry bush. The piece was made a few years ago during the fires here. It’s about how we sacrifice ourselves over the course of a lifetime for the next generation. Like the story of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
How do you view the significance of the overall exhibition?
The exhibit Black Artists of Oregon is a major milestone toward recognizing the contributions of black artists in Oregon historically and today. This exhibition has provided many of the artists involved significant opportunities to advance their careers through greater understanding and visibility of their work.
How does being a working artist inform your interactions with art students?
For me, being a working artist means more than making paintings. I’m also an art curator and nonprofit organizer. I’m able to bring my experience making a living in the arts while doing social justice work to the students and the school overall because L&C has always been supportive of me as an individual. Students are able to experience and learn about the work I do off campus in addition to working with me one-on-one in the department. I often help students talk through projects, problem-solve ideas, and share my experience building a career in the arts.
Describe your job. What do you like best about your work?
I’ve worked at L&C for nearly 14 years in the art department. I’ve had the opportunity to witness and be a part of the evolution of the department here over the years. Basically, my job is to provide support to faculty, students, and staff in the art department. My primary focus is on the photography darkroom, our computer labs, painting studio, drawing studio, and digital media lab. I also serve as a point person in art when we need to work with other campus support departments like Information Technology, Facility Services, or Events. I spend a lot of my time researching and purchasing equipment and materials for the department. Fortunately, I love shopping. The part of my job I find the most rewarding is connecting with students on their journey here at L&C. I’m always available to meet with students to discuss their artwork, whether the concept or the materials and process. I’m also a person students come to for guidance on their career in the arts after college. Often I’m able to offer students their first job; to have that job be art-related is meaningful on their path to becoming a practicing artist.