I am incredibly excited for the opportunity to feature Tyler Quintin, a current Artist in Resident for the Morean Center for Clay, for the first re-installment of the Diversity in Clay Project! Upon seeing his work, I was immediately captivated by the intricacy of the forms and knew that I wanted to dive deeper and learn what moved him to create these pieces. Quintin describes himself as a “Korean-American with an entirely American upbringing” on his website and discussed with me how this dynamic plays out in his work. Quintin talked about his experience growing up as an Asian-American while feeling disconnected from Korean culture and questioning the “idea of having a right to culture by blood, when I feel like I’m just as easily capable of using an image, symbol, or text incorrectly as any other American.” As he explains, his pieces are “self portraits which discuss the disconnect between my physical appearance and my cultural upbringing”. Quintin works with bone dry clay extrusions and slip to hand-build the intricate wire frames you see in his pieces, in traditional Korean forms.  However, the pieces lack the surface area to hold the traditional surface and pattern treatments of Korean ceramics – a metaphor he uses to portray his experience and feelings of cultural divide.

Tyler Quintin - Cultural Disconnect

My work focuses on identity, specifically my experience growing up Asian American without Asian (Korean) culture”.  As someone who grew up feeling disconnected from Asian culture, Quintin often questions the right to culture by blood, “Korean culture is so far removed from my life experience that I often feel this sense of being an appropriator when I refer to Korean ceramic/art tradition”. 

“Ceramic objects have held an integral role in daily life throughout human history. Whether actively used or objects of admiration, we as humans have developed different associations with these objects. Through sculptural and functional objects alike, I am considering how ceramics can become a vehicle for discussions centered on identity and culture.” – Tyler Quintin

As part of the feature of Tyler Quintin I wanted to find out who had been influential in his journey.  I wanted to know who had inspired him, and what experiences had been the most important to him along the way. Quintin credits many people for helping him on his journey in the ceramics world . In particular he noted that the artist Lauren Gallaspy was instrumental in helping him discover the use of bone-dry clay hand-building – Quintin said Gallaspy was “responsible for setting off the work that’s made my emerging career”. Quintin also credited Beth Cavener as one of his mentors and expressed his gratitude for allowing him to experience what the life of a full-time studio artist could be like. Glenda Taylor was a long-time family friend to the people here at Bracker’s, so it was definitely a heartwarming moment to discover she was also influential in Quintin’s journey as a mentor. Quintin remembers a one-on-one critique with Glenda and told me that it was her advice that challenged him to find the critical line between his inspirations and his finished pieces. His favorite exhibition was the 2018 San Angelo Competition where he entered the piece “Object Memory 1 (Remembering Breakfast)”, pictured to the left. Quintin explained that he had felt out of place as an artist who had entered new and explorative work in comparison to other emerging artists that were there whose work was more well known. This show would become a turning point for Quintin whose piece ended up being purchased into the permanent collection. As Quintin put it, the moment “blurred the hierarchy in my mind between the work and professional accomplishment” and “reaffirmed that this work was something I should explore further”. After seeing his work, and the journey his inspirations have taken him on, it was no surprise to me to discover that Quintin had two more pieces accepted into the 23rd San Angelo National Ceramic Competition that took place in 2020. These pieces are also pictured to the left and are entitled, “Object Memory 2 (Long Summer Days)” and “Tiger Eyes”, respectively.

“Glenda was someone who, when you spoke to her, you got her undivided attention. She never spoon fed answers, preferring to coax students into responding to what they were doing and building on that dialogue.  Nobody who worked with Glenda became a copy of Glenda, and instead you came out as a better version of yourself!”

Glenda Taylor

As a more introverted, home-body individual growing up, internet culture is probably the closest thing I have to a cultural upbringing. There’s so much I learned about myself through the internet because the internet can be a great way to explore identity in an anonymous way. So now, I’m beginning to explore the use of animals with the idea of internet avatars in mind.” – Tyler Quintin

When he started college, Quintin thought his journey would revolve around illustration and was considering becoming a character concept artist.  It wasn’t until he met other artists and mentors like Eleanor Heimbaugh who took him to his first NCECA that he decided he wanted to be a part of the ceramics world.  Looking at his work and what he has accomplished, I think he has found a way to morph his many artistic talents into creations that are beautiful AND have an incredible message.   In his recent work, he has been exploring the use of animal forms in combination with the wire frames he is known for “where parts of the heads are deconstructed into “wire-frames” that communicate the idea of a rendered, artificial moment”. This technique plays on his love for drawing and anthropomorphic avatars, and also works to create a fuller story in his pieces..  He explained, “In the new work I’m creating, I want to tell personal narratives through these avatars.”  The animal forms give voice to the internal emotional experience, while the vessels speak more to the external bodily experience and both work to capture the authenticity of the moment. 

The Bracker’s Diversity in Clay project features artists and their work – it also dives deeper into their stories, backgrounds, and lives. The ceramics world can be a beautiful playground for many, but with success comes obstacles to overcoming adversity. Tyler Quintin spoke about the struggles he faced coming out of his undergrad years, trying to find a balance between the intellectual side of art and the practicality of it. He explained that application was an “annual challenge” until he began to “find avenues in my work that [I] was deeply connecting with, as well as doing well competitively” and made the switch to looking for long term residencies – such as the one he currently holds. He remembers what it was like to feel “in limbo” but contends that “persistence was key”. He now hopes to inspire other artists by being someone who “pushes the capabilities of what can be formed with clay” by keeping both technical and visual inspiration as the forefront of his work. As a self-described “sculptor that’s learning how to function”, his work tends to play with the line between functional work and sculpted pieces.  He hopes this inspires other artists to pursue their careers without limitations.  Quintin’s advice for other artists is to “travel, have experiences, and to meet people without an agenda” (as best you can during a pandemic). The benefits of these activities present themselves in unexpected ways, making it a great way to make connections within the ceramics and art communities. His other piece of advice was simply “don’t stop”, to look for balance, but also “don’t stop keeping the creative part of your mind active” – persistence is key remember? I asked him what challenge question he would ask to other artists looking to explore and grow – I not only got a question but also a little food for thought for all our followers; Quintin said “my question for you is, “what do you always find yourself coming back to?” I think that answering this question and pursing the answer to it is key to making the most authentic work.”

“I utilize a personal cast of symbols in sculptural and functional work to tell my stories. Using bold pattern work, color, and imagery to recreate the initial recognition of Asian-ness in the viewer, I subtly weave in a personal narrative underneath that asks to be seen. I hope that interactions with my work act as a reminder to get to know individuals beyond appearances.” – Tyler Quintin

Educational/Personal Growth Opportunity

“I think, upon reflection, that one of the last challenges Glenda presented me with was how to look at my work critically and to figure out what makes what I was doing unique from my inspirations. I was, and still am, a huge fan of Beth Cavener’s work. She taught a workshop at Fort Hays State University, which I got to attend. Through that workshop experience, and by following up through email, I got to go and work for Beth as an intern at Studio 740 one summer. I was actually working for Beth when Glenda passed. Anyway, I think sometimes you can get too close to the artwork and miss the ways it’s becoming derivative to what you’re looking at at the time. Glenda had a great eye and saw what was happening with my work. The formation of my own voice through animal figures has taken its time to develop, and is still developing, but I will always remember that one on one critique I had with Glenda, that pushes me to step back and look critically.
Now it’s your turn to be challenged:
To the artists out there furthering their education and skills, exploring subjects and modes of making, my question for you is, “what do you always find yourself coming back to?” I think that answering this question and pursing the answer to it is key to making the most authentic work.