Local Artist Spotlight: Tiffany Christopher Focuses on Community and Culture
With the celebrations of Halloween and Día de los Muertos approaching, there is no better local artist to chat with than Tiffany Christopher of Memoire Arts. Christopher has a show of new work, Cuentos (Stories), tonight (October 13) at 400 West Rich in the Northern Gallery. Viewing is from 6-10 p.m., or by private appointment through October.
“I started drawing and painting with acrylics at a young age,” says Christopher. “I attended a lot of continuing education courses through CCAD growing up. When I was 12 I had my heart set on being an old school animator, but by the time I was ready for college, I discovered that the majority of the arts programs had switched to the future, digital and 3D animation, so I focused on the illustration portion, which developed for me along the way and is continuing to do so.”
Christopher loves being a part of the art community in Columbus. She has spent many hours visiting the Columbus Museum of Art, often thanks to the Free Sundays program and appreciates the theme of community that many artists and muralists from Columbus express through their art.
“Aminah Robinson had a very profound effect on me, as well as other muralists in the state, because I took their influences of everyday life and community and conveyed it into my work, which focuses on community and the everyday grind and progress we see in Columbus. I can give my own perspective back to the community from my influence.”
Growing up, Christopher spent time in the Southwest part of the United States and experienced a diverse collective of traditional, folk, and contemporary arts from the Native American, Mexican, and Chicano communities. She explains how she settled on her main artistic them of Día de los Muertos:
Growing up and seeing the skulls as a kid put a lot of thoughts into my head… Were they bad? Were they something to be afraid of? Was this some sort of bizarre pagan ritual? Why were they so happy? As I got older I began to research more into the holiday as well as the well-known artists in Mexico, which prompted me to start creating my own characters and developing from there.
Although she does not have an ancestral connection to the Latino community, her artwork has immersed her into that community locally.
“I have been a contributor and volunteer with the local Day of the Dead Community Event that Latino Arts for Humanity and Columbus CIP promote and bring together every fall,” she says. “That event is extremely beneficial and the closest thing we have in Columbus to a traditional Day of the Dead event. They have also helped me in getting my work out there internationally and in Mexico City.”
Christopher has worked with other local Latino businesses in the community by contributing artwork or commissions. Over the summer, her 2016 Urban Scrawl piece titled “The Procession” was chosen to hang on the outside of La Chaparrita at 2655 W. Broad St.
“It was originally slated to go to the Arts for Franklinton auction, but to my surprise, I was contacted by the Franklinton Arts District board who behind the scenes had decided to donate the piece -with my permission- to Summer Jam West for their ‘For the Common Good’ public arts campaign,” she says. “Patti Von Niessen with Summer Jam West was championing for my piece to be placed in Hilltop where I live and also as a bonus, display on a local Latino business. I definitely could not turn down an opportunity so near and dear to my own values.”
Christopher and her husband have lived in the Westgate-Hilltop neighborhoods for over three years. She serves on the board of Summer Jam West which focuses on bringing public art to the Hilltop community and each year holds a grassroots arts and music festival in the neighborhood. She also serves on the steering committee with Cap City Creatives, a smaller collective that invites new artists looking to get immersed in the Columbus scene.
She has participated in Urban Scrawl the past three years and it is one of her most memorable experiences to date.
“The first year I was so nervous to participate, but I made it, and was able to finish my piece within the timeline,” she says. “I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to create work on such a large scale, and with so many visitors to see my process. I’m quite thrilled every time I receive my acceptance letter from the Franklinton Arts District. It’s a great experience and also a learning experience on managing time, working in weather conditions, and also working on a much larger scale.”
Being selected to be a part of the Arts for Franklinton auction and have her piece live auctioned off was also thrilling. “That’s was a completely difference experience for me,” she says.
For her new show, Christopher has added new work in a new medium. Supply grants from the Greater Columbus Arts Council have allowed her to try new things like ceramics and paper mache and she is happy to debut a collection of paper mache masks for tonight’s show.
“I wanted to experiment, because sometimes it’s easy to get burned out doing the same thing,” she says. “Paper Mache, a commonly utilized medium within folk art, really helped me to experiment and jostle the inner creative parts of my brain.”
“For this show I am focusing on Stories, Folklore, and tales from the Latin American and Chicano cultures. You’ll see a lot of my traditional “Día de los Muertos” styled artworks which most will pertain to their own folklores, but you will also get to see the mixed media and 3D artwork I have prepared of prominent figures within the Latin American cultures, which are my focus on a more traditional folk art perspective. I hope to teach those who may not be familiar with the culture, or the Día de los Muertos holiday, a new perspective and view. I want people to leave with a little bit more of an understanding to their culture and traditions instead of just leaving going ‘Wow, those were some cool skull paintings’. It’s important to me that I’m not disregarding the important meaning behind my inspirations.”
In addition to her show, Christopher will be a contributing artist to the Day of the Dead community event being held at Greenlawn Cemetary on October 21 from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the culture and their traditions,” she says. “There will be Ofrendas, Artwork, workshops, music performances and lots of other wonderful ways to celebrate and honor the dead and loved ones that have passed on. Find out more information about the Day of the Dead community event at latinoartsforhumanity.blogspot.com.
Christopher has been a member of the 400 West Rich artist community for a couple of years and recently moved to studio #162, sharing space with Colleen Rosshirt and Samantha Pitts, an up-and-coming photographer.
“Our works are all completely different, which makes for an interesting environment creatively.”
Photos by Anne Evans unless otherwise credited.