The Arts Company • July 5 through August 8
by Jesse Mathison
The images Daryl Thetford creates are woven from countless sources: a street performer in New York City, an astronomy chart, a section of an old wall, now crumbling. His visual pieces are colorful and somewhat playful, yet they possess a psychological undercurrent that adds depth to the work. Thetford, whose background is in the mental health profession, deals with struggle, wonder, and the search for resolution. We talked at length about his process, his influences, and the impulses behind his art.
“Everything begins with my photographs—the color, the texture, and the tone of my work,” Thetford says. “That’s the beginning point. I find inspiration in the movement and energy of urban environments, and I’ll sometimes walk for hours and hours, looking at cracks in the sidewalk and other small details, taking pictures wherever I go. I won’t necessarily know what I want to use a particular photograph for, or even if I want to use it, but my work absolutely begins with photography.”
The artist puts over forty hours of work into each piece he creates, layering, refining, and crafting a variety of source material into something homogenous and insightful. “I think of places as a psychological space,” he continues, “each with a certain feel. I tend to draw visual ideas of psychological concepts when they occur to me, and then I like to imagine what I could do with that. I work a lot more effectively if I have a notion of what I want to do. Otherwise I ramble around a lot more; I stumble.”
There is something tenebrous behind the work of Daryl Thetford, two elements somewhat at odds with the other. “I want my work to have some gravity to it,” he tells me, “but also something lighter, too. I want it to be about this thing inside that you struggle with throughout this journey, the painful and the attractive at the same time, as our lives are a mixture of the two.” This conceptual chiaroscuro is at the heart of Thetford’s process as well. He usually has a light and a dark series going at the same time.
With a solid understanding of his process, I next ask him about the inspiration behind his varied source materials. “I have stacks and stacks and stacks, I mean thousands, of art books,” he tells me. “I like the work of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, the color of Rothko, and some of the scratchy grittiness of Basquiat. I admire the writing of Carl Jung and actually used a photograph of him in one of my pieces, where he is hidden as a cello player (Man with a Cello). And my work Woman with a Halo: A Modern Icon is, stylistically, a nod to the Russian constructivists.
Finally, we talk more about why the artist creates as he does. “When I was very young I was drawn to painting, but as I grew up it was time to get real, to go to college and do something you were supposed to do, something that would make a living. Nobody I had ever met had made their living as an artist, so I went into mental health and worked in that field for many years. Eventually I got burned out with that, and I decided to quit my job and pursue a career as an artist. So, for me, making art is returning home.”
Daryl Thetford is represented by The Arts Company. His exhibit Introducing the World of Daryl Thetford will be on display July 5 to August 8 with a conversation with the artist on July 11. For more information visit www.theartscompany.com and www.darylthetford.com.