Tawni Shuler

Ecotone: the place where forest meets meadow, desert touches river.  It’s the frontier where communities of humankind and wild animals touch each other.  It’s that shaky space between who we are and who we appear to be, the gap between reality and mystery, the certain and the imagined.

– Joanne Smith from What Wildness is This

After recent moves from the mountains of Wyoming to the arid climate of Arizona, then to the high New Mexico desert, images of wildlife- bears, jackrabbits, birds and fish have flooded my work.  In many ways, I am a child again, just making pictures depicting my environment with a little bit of whimsy.  I fabricate stories about these creatures as they move through imagined landscapes filled with spiny sharp succulents, lush pink flowers, golden buzzing bees, glowing stars and embellished clouds.  

My creative process is that of a simple observer, collector and builder.  At first, I am just looking and making; drawings or prints that depict places, textures, plants or animals I see on a hike or in my back yard.  Pieces are inspired from memory, quick sketches or even photos.  These “pieces” pile up in the studio, some taped to walls, others on a shelf or a box on the floor.  At this point, the characters or places of the story come alive and begin to speak and interact with each other.  Animals assume human qualities and landscapes become lyrical, magical, mysterious or ominous.  I see these works as self-portraits and identify with the characters.  This allows me to start building a visual story through the process of collage, ripping or cutting into smaller pieces before recombining them back into a singular reality.  The work becomes a layered setting for imagery that is balanced between abstraction and representation as well as objective and subjective.  

In the end, these spaces and characters are found in the transition from reality to the imagined, a dream from the space between sleep and awake.  The final result becomes a visual reminder to encourage viewers to investigate how experiences in our external environment shape our inner landscapes and the stories we tell.