Looking beyond the aesthetic
Kenneth Tyger wants people to think, to be aware. He wants them to be aware of what is going on in politics, in our country, in the natural world and of mans’ connection to its destruction and protection.
“I try to consciously incorporate a political voice behind the aesthetics,” Tyger said. “A lot of my pieces are about protecting nature and the environment.”
His rather surrealist piece, “Del Rio Grande Arbloes en Vuelo,” an oil on canvass measuring three feet by five feet, depicts the dichotomy between bird and man, Tyger says, and the deterioration of the avian’s bosque habitat.
In the painting, the birds are uprooting and carrying away their own home — perhaps seeking sanctuary elsewhere or perhaps surrendering to what some might say is the inevitable.
Many of Tyger’s pieces are local scenes, meant to touch a cord with those who live here. The oil painting of the Peralta mission church is something everyone in the area will recognize, Tyger knows.
“It’s a symbol of the Trinity — the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,” he said. “But it also makes us aware of the trinity of religion, culture and history.”
Using oil and acrylic, Tyger captures the mythical quality of a New Mexico sunrise, pink and purple and peach against a cobalt sky. A monochromatic lithograph, titled “Dutch Fields,” brings in elements from outside of New Mexico and outside the country, with its impressionistic windmill and poppies waving in the yellow breeze.
But the desolate feeling of drought and heat are purely the Land of Enchantment — just what Tyger was trying to capture.
After swimming with the dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico off Corpus Christi, Tyger said he developed a deep attachment to the animals.
“They are so creative, playful and intelligent,” he said. “I formed such a bond with them.”
A massive oil piece called “Dolphin Dream” depicts a portrait of a man, reminiscent of Van Gogh’s self portraits. The figure is comprised of pointillism dots, giving it a fractured, separated feeling, while a dolphin, smooth and solid, swims by his face, asking the viewer to decide which is real and which is the dream.
Tyger’s styles and mediums range from oils to acrylics to lithographs and even dip into clay and three-dimensional works.
“I have been blessed with this gift. And I have a certain fearlessness when it comes to trying new things with art,” he said.
A native of Pennsylvania, Tyger came to New Mexico when he was 16.
“I fell in love with New Mexico,” he said.
Making the transition from back east to the Southwest wasn’t as strange or unexpected as it sounded. His mother grew up on the family ranch in Magdalena, leaving the state when she was 16.
When Tyger came to visit his uncle, L.M. Shinn, the renowned artist and owner of Bosque Studio Art Gallery in Bosque Farms, Shinn saw something in Tyger — an artist.
“He was like a dad to me,” Tyger said. “At 16, he saw the talent and ability I had and helped me to become a disciplined artist.”
As his skills grew, Shinn would take Tyger out to various stores and events to do painting demonstrations. One he remembers well. At a J.C. Penney, Tyger was finishing up a Southwest scene when a Navajo gentleman came up behind him to watch.
“He told me I was painting his home, his backyard. He said, ‘I’ve stood right there,’” Tyger said. “I never told him the whole thing wasn’t real. It came out of my imagination, out of different places I’d seen while traveling.”
But even with all his skill and talent, Tyger ended up taking a regular job to make a living. After spending more than 20 years as a lineman for PNM, he retired about 10 years ago, living just a few hundred feet from where his uncle’s gallery used to be on South Bosque Loop.
His early retirement gave him the opportunity he’d never had before. Tyger decided to go to school.
He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a master’s in art education from the University of New Mexico. While there, he was part of the prestigious Tamarind Institute, a division of the college of fine arts.
The institute began as the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, Inc., and was founded in Los Angeles in 1960 as a means to “rescue” the dying art of lithography. It became affiliated with UNM and moved to Albuquerque in 1970.
“That was such a great thing, to just go and learn about art,” Tyger said. “And now, after all the years, I have been given the opportunity of painting nature, engaging with nature. It is therapeutic. And I love to see a piece hanging in someone’s home that gives them joy.”
Tyger lives a quite life in Bosque Farms, calling himself a “home boy artist,” when describing his retiring social style.
“I know I should put myself out there more, but it’s so hard to talk about my art,” he said.
Despite that, he has been featured in four shows this year and was the artist for the 2010 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta poster.
The poster shows a river scene from the Los Lunas bridge, the location of many a splash-and-dash, Tyger said.
“I actually painted years before,” he said. “It was a year when there was tremendous runoff and the river was full. I decided to add the hot air balloons and you know, the pilots recognized their balloons. They thought it was pretty neat.”
Tyger says eventually he would like to teach and help people tap into their passion for art.
“You don’t have to have a natural talent,” he said. “This doesn’t have to be a career or even a serious hobby.”
In the meantime, he will continue making art that speaks to people, reminding them to be conscious of nature, mindful of their surroundings.
“Everything is connected. And this is more than painting a pretty picture. Anyone can paint a pretty picture. I can paint a pretty picture,” Tyger said. “I love that people buy my pieces and they bring them enjoyment. But I want them to think as well.”
To contact the artist and view more of his work, visit www.kennethtyger.com.
-- Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.