In early April, I was welcomed into Tesa Burch’s home and studio to get a glimpse of her art process, best explained by her as a series of rummaging, collecting, and spilling onto a creative space. Her paintings filled the walls with bright burnt siennas, oranges, and ceruleans; photographs of Marilyn Monroe, flowers, and lightning were scattered around her work space to inspire or be added to a new collage. As I wandered around her studio, she would point out found objects hidden in the details of her shelves, from delicate shards of mirror and strings of pearls to alligator hide and bear claws.
“My mother helps me gather and rummage things,” she explained about her found objects, “Thematically, I reference her from time to time. She has been through some real shit in relationships and I see myself sometimes in her story. I like to think I am exploring her love lessons.” She smiled as she told me stories of her mother bringing home odds and ends for her from yard sales and how she’s trying to return the favor as she visits them now: a genuine ebb and flow of influence in her work and relationships. This can also be seen in a giant, red horse figurine she had perched on her desk, a recycled toy from her son. Burch laughed as I asked about it; “I’m going to saw its head off.”
I sat with her as she walked me through her process: starting with a frame, she builds out from the middle in all directions. Burch painted bold red bats on an unfinished canvas and excitedly lacerated the head from a toy horse as I documented and talked with her. As we migrated through conversations, I found myself being walked around her home to empty frames where she spilled out ideas of bigger and more intricate compositions, reminding me of the Paul Gardner quote, “A painting is never finished – it simply stops in interesting places.”
Burch was born and raised here in Panama City, Florida, the amount of love she has forthis small, southern beach town flows into her paintings, drawings, assemblages, collages, and anything and everything else she gets her hands on. “I absolutely love this backwards, redneck town with plenty of places to swim and socially awkward people. I really love that they create work that is honest and based on what they are really interested in.” As we talked about Florida, art, and our personal spatial explorations, she explained to me the idea of the unexplored in small towns and how she wants to help change that by bringing new, big ideas to us. And she’s doing a good job of that so far; in the past year Burch has been responsible for four art shows here locally: TB/SB Peek Experience, Beach Goth Art Show, Makers’ Marks: A Sketchbook Exhibit, and I’m Not Going Anywhere.
This is all being done as Burch works as trial director with the City Arts Cooperative here in town, helping to teach, exhibit and create work at a low cost, along with promoting interdisciplinary networking within the city itself. As Burch makes big splashes in this small town for the sake of larger events and exposure for our art scene, she’ll be working toward teaching classes once she becomes a full director in the coming months. I asked Burch what can be done to become more involved in the art community here,
“Go to openings. Buy art if you can. If you can’t, eat the free cheese and have a good time.”
Tesa Burch will have her work shown at the Fringe Gallery Grand Opening on July 22 in The Fringe Gallery at City Arts Co-operative, at Mosey’s Downtown on July 29th for Kids: A Visual Experiment Curated by Alan Loosbrock, and will have a solo show at Blasted Screen Print on August 12. To keep up with her upcoming shows and group events feel free to follow her on facebook or Instagram.