Featured Artist Lisa Tarkett-Reed
Interview by Brenda Howell

Lisa Tarkett Reed is a MamaCITA affiliate member living near beautiful Frederick, Maryland.

LTReedBH: Tell us about your art making journey…..did it start very early in childhood or did it begin in your teen years?

LTR: Remember Colorforms, Spirograph, and those coloring books that had tracing paper in them? I find the roots of my obsession with visual languages and making with my hands in these childhood toys. My family remembers my commitment to these activities and my natural tendency to put pencil to paper when trying to describe something to them. These were the beginnings of my making and drawing to play, explore, express and communicate.

BH: Was there any one person that you would say had the biggest influence on your artistic journey?

LTR: More than one person influenced my journey. My parents, Frances and Joseph Tarkett, were supportive and modeled a strong work ethic and deep appreciation for nature. I am forever grateful to my middle school art teacher, Mr. Carrier. In his class, we drew from elaborate still life set ups and I learned to take my work seriously. “Chief” was my high school art teacher and he gave us complete freedom as well as opportunities to create artwork for the school in the shape of murals and signage.

In undergrad and grad school, professors Margo Margolis, Frank Bramblett, Stanley Whitney, and Sam Tchakalian inspired me to work hard, become aware of my process and immerse myself in art and art history with rigor. My peers inspired me through their work and helped me to find my voice, maintain a sense of humor, and see the world with new eyes.

BH: The sphere seems to play a big role in your 2D and 3D work.  What can you tell us about that?

LTR: For me, it’s always about creating an articulate, relevant, and dynamic visual language that sings. The circle and sphere have a simultaneity about them that serves my purposes. They embody so many things at once. I see the sphere as funny and universal. Circles and spheres are balls, rings, bubbles, planets, toys, eyes, the letter O. They represent wholeness, unity, infinity. I also love using repetition as a compositional device that provides movement. That is why there are often multiples of an element, like circles, in my work.

BH: How did you come upon the idea of repurposing jars into mini installations?

LTR:I wanted to develop work that was profoundly and simply connected to my everyday life. I began working with the salsa jars because, at the time, I was attempting (again) to eat only raw foods and I was eating ALOT of salsa. Ideas about byproduct, cycles, digestion, recycling, canning, and preserving, were the seeds of this ongoing project.

BH: Are you content with where you are right now, artistically?

LTR:Recently, I made a big change that has brought me peace in terms of where I am artistically. Since 2010, I have been a member of The Artists’ Gallery in Frederick, Maryland. TAG is an artists’ cooperative where I enjoyed the opportunity to interact with other artists and exhibit and publicize my work. After four years, I began to feel that everything I was doing in my studio was in answer to some kind of assignment from TAG. Making my work is a place of absolute freedom for me and I saw this space being coopted by gallery obligations. So, just two weeks ago, I gave up my membership in TAG. Now, I am creating new work that is unaffected by external commitments and, for now, it feels like that is exactly where I need to be.

BH: What are you currently working on?

I’ve just begun a series illustrating Thomas Merton’s ideas about spirituality using the Fibonacci sequence as a starting point for my compositions. This is so fresh that I may abandon it at the beginning if I realize it’s going nowhere or, it might reveal itself as having legs and then, I will pursue it to its end. I just don’t know yet.


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