Tunson’s prolific artistry used to astound me. Now it just ticks me off.
|Here’s Andrew Tirado wondering “How does Floyd do it!?”|
I’ve seen the career retrospective, Floyd D. Tunson: Son of Pop, at the FAC three times and plan to make it back for a few more before it comes down. The exhibit is stunning in its depth and its breadth, another show ably curated by Blake Milteer and the museum’s indomitable staff. The work fills the entire second floor of the museum and, seemingly bursting at the seams, overflows in places down to the ground floor. But beyond the ideas, beyond the evident love of color and form and markmaking, it clearly whispers to me, “Catch me if you can.” And that ticks me off.
|A picture from Tirado’s archives. Floyd D. Tunson was Tirado’s art teacher at Palmer High and thought highly of Tirado’s work, believing he’d be a big New York artist a couple years out of high school.|
|Another photo from Tirado’s archives, from his|
time as an apprentice for Chuck Close right after
Close suffered a spinal artery collapse.
As if his artistic vigor wasn’t already evident in class, it was confirmed when I first stepped into his live/work space. Tunson’s Manitou Springs loft brims with evidence of a vital exertion with color, materials, and ideas, from unfinished canvases large and small, to sculptures and silkscreens, to buckets, boxes, and bins full of fodder for his 2D and 3D creations, to the photo darkroom, with its chemical experimentations, to the throng of paintings and sculptures hanging salon style on walls and ceiling.
It’s not just physical materials that Tunson salvages, but others’ work that he unabashedly steals. A few years out of college, but well prior to returning to making art myself, I was happily building wood strip canoes, when Tunson visited me as he is wont to do and took an avid interest in their sleek shapes – one of the main reasons I was drawn to making them in the first place. Only, while mine took months to build, Tunson called one short week later and said he’d made two or three boats – what were to eventually coalesce into the profusion of vessels that constitute his Haitian Dream Boats piece at the Fine Arts Center. How annoying is that?
|Floyd Tunson’s Haitian Dream Boats. Image courtesy of the artist|
Tunson retired from teaching in 2000, and, not surprisingly to those of us who knew just how much he invested in his teaching and his students, experienced an artistic and depressive slump that lasted through the fall and into the winter months. One might’ve assumed he’d have been excited to be able to make art without the time and energy constraints that teaching represents, and I’m sure he was. But it can’t have been easy to leave a profession that he had invested so much of himself into for decades. Unfortunately, by the late winter of the following year, he was back on his game. And, what’s worse, it seems he’s only going to keep getting better.