Tonya Taylor Vollertsen's art is on display in Bahrain
Time Out Bahrain staff
After receiving her bachelor degree in Fine Arts back in 1981, Tonya Taylor Vollertsen has spent the last 30 years as a freelance artist. She spends her time creating fine art and teaching, in venues that have included the Art Students League of Denver and Montgomery College in Texas, and most recently she has served as the resident artist for the Cynthia Woods-Mitchell Pavilion in Woodlands, Texas.
Such an accolade is nothing new to Tonya, as she has served in various honorary capacities before this, including President of the Slidell Art League, Vice President of the Louisiana Watercolour Society, and she was even appointed to the commission on the Arts Advisory Board for the State of Louisiana. Being the daughter of a school teacher and graphic artist, Tonya spent her early days living on a Navajo Indian reservation, which has served as a lasting influence, and has since travelled throughout the United States, Africa, Asia and Europe, winning several national and international awards in both painting and sculpture. After moving to Bahrain, we see what her first exhibition at the World Beat Fitness Centre has to offer.
How did you first become passionate about art? I have always painted, drawn, and liked to make things with my hands. My mother always encouraged it. I think it came as no surprise to her, because my father was an artist.
What inspires you? I’m inspired by lots of things, which makes it difficult for me to settle on something to paint. Having moved around a lot, I have found that different places offer different inspirations for my paintings. Circumstance and availability generally drive my choices. When I moved to Bahrain, I was smitten with camels, as I think most expats are. I’m starting to get over the camel thing now, and I would like to explore some other animals, like falcons and Arabian horses.
Do you like the local art? There seems to be quite a bit of talent in Bahrain and the Middle East in general, but I have not been able to put my finger on one individual that inspires me. I was lucky enough to be in Dubai recently for Art Dubai, a huge art show that takes place in the city, which proved that the talent in the region is high and that artists are definitely holding their own quite well.
What is your most memorable art piece to date? Surprisingly enough, I guess it would have to be an oil portrait I did of my eldest son. Mostly because I won the Best of Show award for it, in not only a prestigious show, but also one that did not necessarily focus on portraits. In competitive art shows, portraiture is not considered a good competitive subject, so it was a pretty big deal to win the top prize.
How do you think the art scene in Bahrain compares to that of the West? Creativity is something like laughter in my opinion. It’s a natural thing that emerges from people in generally the same way, regardless of where you go in the world. It transcends language and is the common thread that I look for wherever I go. I don’t find it much different here than anywhere else. Art is art like laughter is laughter.
You used to own your own gallery – can you tell us a little bit more about it? Yes, Taylor Gallery in Slidell, Louisiana, which is a few miles outside of New Orleans. It displayed local artists, with classes and art demonstrations. My mother-in-law is a retired antiques dealer and appraiser, so we had an arts and antiques theme that made it a very popular place for local artists and art lovers to gather.
What can you tell us about the exhibition you have launched here? This particular body of work will be up at World Beat Fitness until late this month. It is a culmination of my most recent work. There are a lot more pieces, especially of the larger abstract paintings, but I could only fit so much into the space, so I chose the smaller pieces, which are the monotypes, and then filled in with as many of the pure abstracts as would fit. There are two motifs or themes; the crows that I was working with before I came to Bahrain and the camels that I became enamoured with shortly after I got here. I like to work in series with some commonality.