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DIALOGUE: Teysha Vinson

  • The Grace Museum - 2nd Floor 102 Cypress Street Abilene, TX, 79601 United States (map)

DIALOGUE: Teysha Vinson

Lights and Petals, digital inkjet print

THURSDAY, February 1

7 pm - Alice & Bill Wright Photography Gallery, 2nd Floor

DIALOGUE is a collaboration with the Center for Contemporary Arts (CCA).  Artist Members from the CCA are invited to pair the work they create with art currently on view at The Grace and speak about the connections between the two.  The next artist to present will be Teysha Vinson.



Art has always been the lens through which I see. My appreciation began early with my father who is also an artist. Every evening he would come home from a long, hard day of work and paint in his studio. We went on vacations to the mountains and deserts of the Westjust so he could make photographs to paint from. Some of my favorite memories are from our entire family hanging out at art festivals in other cities, crowding my dad’s booth like groupies. In college I tried not to major in art, but it seems it was inevitable. I really felt and still feel called to be an artist. I graduated with honors and scholarships under my belt and set my eyes set on graduate school where I could continue learning the conceptual side of things. At Boise State University in Idaho, I found myself on a very steep learning curve. There I was surrounded by a very different art crowd than the local one I had grown up around. I learned how to really break my work down and ask it questions in order to end up with a product that was both deeply meaningful and intriguing. Grad school, though, has a way of taking your work beyond where you feel comfortable operating outside of its academic environment. After getting my MFA, I felt like I needed to re-center. It was oddly fitting that my husband and I ended up back in Abilene where I grew up. Here I have been able to re-consider my work from a “home” point of view. In graduate school I was happily honed in on concept and theory but now I’m revisiting the simplicity of form and color. Even so, the same muses are at work within me. My work is always about light, about modern christian culture, about the fine line artwork about this sort of thing walks between sublime and comedy. And this is the space where I always find myself: in the tension between awe and awful.


Most of my work is an exploration of conveying a sincere spirituality within an american christian culture that at times can be kitsch or trite. Having grown up in the “Bible Belt” and going to church, I am very familiar with modern christianity and its visual language. Rainbows and light rays are often used to show God’s presence and christian radio always sounds like the Backstreet Boys. In my frustration with these representations, I try to make my own artful and quiet representations of God’s light and presence while also making work that pokes fun at the subject matter.

In my Light Presence project, I photograph spots of light hitting the earth. Often the images come out looking “photoshopped” but truly are the way the scene looked in real life. I use light allegorically in these images, pushing it to be isolated amidst an all-over balanced photograph whose periphery is dark and busy. This to me is a straight-forward symbol of finding the Light in Earth. These images are printed large and meant to pull the viewer into an emotive space where a more universal “spiritual” feeling rushes in. They are dripping with a typical sublime beauty, harkening back to Wyeth’s coasts or Caspar David Friedrich’s 19th century paintings. In these photographs I embrace beauty full on, trying to offer a new visual language to my christian culture. This is an ongoing project that makes up the bulk of my work.

On the other end of the spectrum, my church sign series entitled “You’re Welcome” shows a more humorous side to this subject matter. These are signs found along highways that churches erect in order to invite visitors to their services. Today they are dated and falling out of fashion amidst googling smart phones, but they strongly hold their place against barbed-wire fences and wildflowers. I photograph them wide, being sure to include the environment around them. It is often rural and spacious, familiar to any Texan who drives across the state. In some there are broken antennas, other signs for restaurants battling for attention, or just wide-open cotton fields. I like the way the signs’ sayings bounce off the plants and things around them. I am always fascinated by different forms of evangelism and signs like the one that reads “Where will you spend eternity? Smoking or Non-Smoking?” really make me want to both laugh and scream simultaneously. Do these signs bring people to Jesus? It’s hard to say. As for me, I collect photographs of them because I think they are a part of a culture that is quickly falling out of fashion.

In this body of work I am submitting, I also include a few images I made from Donald Judd’s concrete works in Marfa, TX in order to show my love of formalism. I am simply photographing the forms and patterns Judd already made for the viewer, but it is so satisfying to show why those seemingly banal concrete blocks are pure formalist magic when positioned just so. They are a sort of “practicing” that I believe is necessary to an artist’s work. A photographer has to practice just like a painter or a sculptor by stepping out of their comfort zone and honing back in on the basics of design.

All my photographs are made on medium format or 35mm film. I have the film scanned digitally and then I order c-prints from the digital files. I find this method of working most satisfying because it causes me to slow down and carefully shoot without knowing what I ended up with for a few weeks at least. The elements of mystery and accident are a welcome hand in my process. After shooting digitally for years, the way film looks, with its color and flat grain, make my heart soar like no pixel can.

The last few images in my files are of some letterpress prints I made. I also like to make handmade paper out of old religious texts and/or books and here are some examples. I had access to a letterpress in Idaho and a collection of blocks with which to collage in a way. These works are on the same religious or spiritual thread that the majority of my work lies. They poke fun and ask questions by juxtaposing seemingly unrelated elements with christian symbolism or text. In all my work, with the exception of my formal practices, I am combining somewhat comical elements with my serious faith in order to provide an open door to the conversation of faith in America.

Earlier Event: February 1
Tot Spot
Later Event: February 2
Tot Spot