Tennessee Tea Leaves

Tennessee tea leaves

Man in a Boat

In September, the Jung Center in Houston will host a solo show by Daryl Thetford, an artist from Chattanooga, TN, who, over the past six years, has found ways of building original images by layering his own photography into visual mash-ups: the end result often looks a bit like a woodcut or serigraph on the verge of dissolving into a kind of visual white noise.  As his starting point, he asks himself a question about contemporary culture and then tries to create a visual correlative of it: a sort of Rorschach blot that works subconsciously on the viewer.  He wants the experience of looking at his work to feel a bit like reading tea leaves. He told Architects + Artisans, “It’s amazing what people bring to these. One person will see love and hope, while another says it’s full of pain.” What I love about this approach is that he tries to create an evocative image that has an impact, and conveys a response, that he can’t predict. He works toward formal qualities that have a resonance that isn’t explicitly tied to a particular conceptual meaning. He aims instinctively for the subconscious. He works with software to merge photographs he’s taken of signs, billboards, train cars, sheets of metal, painted walls, old maps, and “other American ephemera that I find on my travels.” From his website:

The colors in all of my photographs originate from my subjects. Numbers and rust often derive from train cars; letters and words come from signs and graffiti, torn paper and pieces of posters are from exterior poster walls. After developing the images from raw digital files, I alter a specific image to black-and- white, and then begins a process of cut and paste that I have developed, using multiple images of close-ups of paint, followed by photographs of signs.  Numerous other photos are added and overlapped.  Although I have used as few as 10 images to create simple images, often 50 or more photographs are used in this process.

Though his imagery sometimes seems to veer closer to graphic design than fine art, his work evokes rich color harmonies that emerge calmly toward the viewer though all the intentional discord of the surface.