We had the good fortune of connecting with Tammi Brazee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tammi, why did you pursue a creative career?
After my youngest child went to kindergarten, I went back to college as an adult with the intention of finishing a biology degree. I took a 2-D design class as an elective and fell in love with making art. Exploration and experimentation are at the heart of both art and science so my interest in both fields makes sense when considered from this perspective. My college education produced two master’s degrees, one in environmental science (ecosystems) and one in fine art (painting). My intention was to work as a scientist as my day job because I knew that making a livable wage as an artist is tough. However, for some reason, and even though I graduated at the top of my class, I couldn’t land a job as a scientist. Heck, I couldn’t even get an interview! I suspect my age and lack of job experience in the sciences played a role. Nevertheless, I pivoted into becoming a full-time working artist after about a year of fruitless job hunting and have dedicated myself to it since then, and I’m so glad I did! It’s wired into my DNA and if I’m not creating something, it feels like part of me has been cut off. I’ve heard various versions of this description from other artists so I’m not alone. The short answer is that I must create in order to thrive. It’s my small contribution to humanity, and I hope that what I’m making relates in some way to the viewer’s experiences in this world, that it offers a sense of companionship, that we are all in this thing called “life on earth” together, linked arm-in-arm.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My creative process always begins with a concept, an idea about something I’ve been pondering, which is usually about human behavior, including my own. Human behavior baffles me so I seek to answer “why?” or, at least explore the question from every angle, like a scientist forming a hypothesis. I then investigate my hypothesis visually, starting with a series of collages that end up as reference materials for paintings. These are often humorous on the surface but have many layers of searching and meaning underneath, putting them in the category of narrative, satirical social commentary. The process is an exploration for me as well as for the viewer who will see the artwork through the veil of their own narrative, creating their own meaning. Because of this effect, there has been an unforeseen outcome; my series about a sneaky marmot that tricks people into believing unhelpful and potentially destructive things is being used to develop a fine art-based mental health therapy tool that will be used by therapists and put into client’s hands to help them uncover their false perceptions and beliefs. Christine Stephenson, LPC, is forming a new company called Tame Your Marmots (Tame) that will develop and sell the therapy tool. I’ll continue to create new artwork in my studio full-time while also helping Stephenson spin up the new company. My “why” for being an artist is to create meaningful, strong artwork that moves people, making them laugh, think, and feel. The “why” for collaborating with Tame is to create a tool that causes people to see themselves in new ways, aid in their emotional healing, and improve their relationships with others, with the earth, and with themselves.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’d take them hiking and if we had a week, I’d immerse them into every ecosystem surrounding us to show them the amazing SW corner of Colorado. I’d share every bit of knowledge that I have about the creatures, geology, and geography of the area if it wouldn’t bore them to death! We’d go kayaking on the reservoir, have picnic lunches, visit a few great restaurants, and enjoy glasses of tasty red wine while watching the alpenglow turn pink on the Cimmarrons. We’d catch horned lizards and look at their cute toes under a magnifying lens, match birds with their songs, and hope for a mountain lion sighting (yes, really, but not too close!). And oh, a gondola ride from Mountain Village into Telluride right at sunset is spectacular. We’d definitely go to a performance at the Sherbino Theater and visit local art galleries. And last but not least, I’d introduce them to my “tribe,” the wonderful people around me who make my world complete.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have so SO many wonderful people for whom I’m grateful, and while there are many to thank for helping me along my journey, there are several professors who stand out as my mentors. I know I wouldn’t be who I am as a painter and artist without their influence. In my undergrad program at the University of Colorado, Denver, John Hull taught me how to see and think like a painter. He pushed me hard, sometimes even frustrating me, but I know it was to encourage my growth, like pruning a fruit tree. Quintin Gonzales taught me how to explore and experiment, and his big, generous heart gave me a safe space to fail but grow. Mary Connelly taught me how to appreciate the lusciousness and sensuality of oil paint. In my graduate program at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, my advisor, David Yust, spent 3 years patiently guiding and encouraging me, while Patrice Sullivan, Paul Flippen, and Marius Lehene constantly challenged me to push into unknown territories and to stop playing it safe. Art historian Pat Cornell kept me in touch with my scientific/logical self by reminding me that I had two sides to my intellect and to nurture them both. After finishing my education, there are just too many folks to mention here, but they helped me get on my feet and start exhibiting as a professional, full-time working artist. My heart is full of people that I adore and respect.
Linkedin: Tammi (Kefauver) Brazee