Tammy Harrington was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and currently resides in Russellville, AR. She received a BFA in Printmaking from the University of South Dakota and a MFA in Printmaking from Wichita State University. She is currently a Professor of Art at the University of the Ozarks where she is in her 13th year of teaching. She has exhibited artwork throughout the region and nationally and is represented by Gallery 26 in Little Rock, AR.
Guardian II (Yin), Monotype, 18" x 14"
Why art? There are lots of things you can do in life, why did making art grab you and not let go?
I always liked making art. It was a natural way for me to communicate and I see actions and concepts in visual ways. One of my earliest memories is of a tiger painting that I created in preschool.
Yeah, it's a question that gets asked a lot, but I'm going to ask it again: What inspires you?
What is the most exciting is thinking about the concept and content behind an image. A successful piece is one that is executed well in technique in combination with layers of information. I use symbols, color choices, key imagery, repetition, and texture to accomplish this. I like to make the viewer "feel something" when looking at an artwork.
What do you find to be the hardest aspect of being an artist?
At this point in my life I am stretched in many different directions – mother, wife, professor, mentor, and artist. It is hard to balance where my energies can go. What helps me “make work” is to participate in portfolio exchanges or to schedule an exhibition/project. This gives me a deadline to work with and then I feel like I can schedule art making into my busy life.
What role do you see the artist playing in a community?
Often times I teach students in my classes that are not Art majors. While technique is important to conquering the media, it is just as important to develop creative thinking. This sense of open and expansive thought is so important to all, not just artists. How can you make art/ideas more intriguing? The artist has the ability to stimulate, inspire, and emotionally move the viewer.
Any ambitious or exciting projects on the horizon for you? What's new in your career that you're excited about and looking forward to?
I am going on sabbatical this fall (2015) so I will have 4 months devoted to making art (and not teaching). This is a tremendous opportunity for me to rejuvenate my creative energy. I will be working on a cross-curricular collaborative print series with 10 of my fellow faculty and staff at the University of the Ozarks. I had the participants look at one of my prints and asked them to respond to my visual through written word. Once I receive the text, I will interpret it and create a print from that (while ignoring my original composition). I will be showing this series at the University of the Ozarks in March 2016. I also joined the board of the Arkansas State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. I am excited to participate in the promotion and support of female Arkansas artists.
Do you have a preferred medium that you use, and why does it just click with you when you create?
My preference is printmaking because it allows me to create a visual surface that I cannot do in drawing. The use of the tools and other materials transforms my imagery. I also enjoy paper cut and working with charcoal. While I am primarily a 2D artist, I have had the opportunity to work in 3D and it is challenging and fun for me. It makes me think in different ways and the challenge is stressful but I enjoy my results because of that.
I remember in a graphic design class being told that after the class, I would notice graphic design everywhere, and it would change the way I see the world. For me, that held true. Do you think art has that power for most people? Does it for you?
I speak about this in my classes. Art and design surround us in the world. Someone had to design the chair that you sit in and the pen that you use. What makes a person decide which chair or pen to buy and use? While this hyperawareness is not present in all people, everyone reacts visually to the world and is influenced by it even if they are not aware of it. It is so awesome when I feel inspired and awed when looking at artwork. I just recently saw work from Kehinde Wiley, a contemporary painter, and it blew me away.
What is your biggest thrill at the opening reception for a show of your work?
I love seeing my work up in a space, especially if I have several works in a show. It is hard to display all your art at home or in the studio. Most times the art is hidden away in storage. I am also honored to be able to share my creative work with the viewer.
There is the common idea of the starving artist, and this idea keeps finding traction in society today. Do you think there is any truth to it, or do you think it is mostly a myth that keeps being perpetuated by people?
There are ways that artists can make a living in art but I acknowledge that is a challenge. I often think about the options and opportunities that are out there for my college students. It is daunting. I feel that an artist can find financial success and be fulfilled creatively but it is a combination of effort and making your own luck that determines if a person will achieve this. I married another artist and the odds were against us that we would both get jobs in the art field especially since neither one of us were in graphic design or art education (k-12). We took the leap anyway and were accepted into graduate school. Now, 17 years later, my husband and I are Art professors at colleges. This job gives me the opportunity to share my art knowledge, to mentor and inspire young artists, and the time to make artwork. It was a long road full of hard work and sacrifice but it was well worth the reward.
Who do you consider to be big influences on you and your work? It doesn't have to be another visual artist. I know for myself several of my influences come from practitioners of different art forms.
I love Frida Kahlo and her ability to tap into using symbols in her self-portraits. There is such honesty and raw emotion to her work.
Thank you Tammy for taking the time to give us a little insight into yourself as an artist!