Wild Waters in Wild Places, mixed media, 4’x 8′, 2022
This Place We Share, mixed media, 6′ x 10′, 2022
Lead Me to the Light, mixed media, 36 x 36, 2021
Homemaking, mixed media, 24 x 24, 2022
This is the House We Share, mixed media, 36 x 36, 2022
Learning to Rest, oil & acrylic on canvas, 48 x 42, 2022
After the Fire, mixed media, 24 x 18, 2020
A Bears Guide to Self Care, mixed media, 23 x 20, 2022
I develop fable-based mixed media work that is sophisticated in technique and child-like in spirit to express universal themes such as joy, heartbreak, love, pride, and aggression. My pieces are visual stories of animals in a variety of imaginary settings that serve as metaphors for the human experience. These experiences can be all-encompassing like coping with a pandemic or small and specific like the sheer joy of accomplishing a goal. Some animals are rendered true to life, with the detail of a photograph, while others are magical hybrid creatures possessing archetypal strengths. These characters living in invented landscapes are simultaneously lyrical, magical, intimate, hopeful, mysterious, and ominous. The landscapes that surround them are as much of a character in these visual stories as the animals themselves.
In many ways, my process of creating is childlike, simply responding to the beauty and chaos of the world around me by drawing and painting pictures. The works portray slivers of accurate representations of animals and landscapes as well as imagined and embellished counterparts. Part truth and part story. Depictions of images such as golden antlers growing atop a rabbit’s head or a pink rabbit nestled inside the belly of a coyote, populate my work. Objects such as antlers or snakeskin function as symbols of power. Both “shed” and renew or grow back. They become crowns or capes these critters adorn to arm themselves as they face universal obstacles in their specific lives. For example, I create a world for my coyote where she grows a set of golden antlers giving her double powers, coyness, and strength. She becomes the superhero in her story. I want to empower my characters to set them free.
Using water media in my initial stages, I work in layers. Some layers are thicker opaque paint, transparent washes, collage elements, or cutting or drawing back into a previous layer. I focus attention on specific parts of the piece by pushing the less important elements to the background and bringing the more important features to the foreground. The two-dimensional surface of paper, canvas, or panel becomes the setting for imagery that is balanced between abstraction and representation, sharp or blurred, objective and subjective. Oil paint is often added in the later stages, creating rich and saturated areas of symbolic color.
The resulting work becomes a simultaneously playful and serious allegory for the viewers to identify with these characters, to bear witness to the world around them, and to look deeply at the interconnectedness among people, animals and landscapes.
About the Artist
Born on a ranch in Wyoming, Tawni Shuler was enticed to paint and draw early on by the art of western painters Frederick Remington and Charlie Russell. She attended the University of Montana, Missoula to complete her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and Arizona State University to complete a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing in 2008. She has since served as the Programming Director for the Red Lodge Clay Center in Montana, an Assistant Professor in Watermedia at Utah Valley University, an Instructor of Art at Sheridan College, Media Specialist for the Arizona Natural History Association and Illustrator for Crystal Publishing. Currently, Shuler lives and creates in Taos, NM.
Her work has been shown at the Taos Center for the Arts, NM; Northwest Art Center, Minot, ND; Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, Augusta, GA; g2 Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ; Harry Wood Gallery, Tempe, AZ; Zane Bennett Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Missoula Art Museum, MT; Woodbury Art Museum, Orem, UT; Tucker Cooke Gallery, Asheville, NC; Smith Theatre Gallery, Farmington Hills, MI; Firehouse Gallery, Grant Pass, OR and was published in Southwest Art’s 2005 Annual Emerging Artist Issue. She has been an artist-in-residence at the Jentel Artist Residency Program, Brush Creek Ranch Artist Foundation and the Ucross Foundation Residency Program in Wyoming.