Visual Differences

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Artist reveals Black female experience

Local Artists: Tammy Jo Wilson
By Dennis McNabb, Contributing Writer

In today’s fast-paced, ever-evolving world, facing a constant barrage of new and compelling information means that we are always grappling to find clarity of purpose. It is increasingly rare, it seems, to meet people who are calm, composed and resolute in their goals. That is why it is such a breath of fresh air to speak with someone like artist, curator and arts organizer Tammy Jo Wilson. Not only is she committed to said objectives, but it’s for the betterment of all — for making this world a better place.

In her own words, reflected on her website, Tammy Jo seeks to, “Share through [her] work an expanded view of the black female experience in the 21st century. [She is] speaking to those among us that are looking for a broader understanding of commonalities rather than differences. Historically rooted in the feminist art movement [her] work attempts to further the unraveling of antiquated thinking around women in art and society. [She offers] a visual entrance to an expanded view of the black female experience and the raw realities faced by marginalized people.”

She goes on further to state, “[Her] practice has evolved over the past 10 years to be less about individual identity and more reflective of cultural and societal understanding of inflicted identity versus projected identity. And she is “Interested in pushing back against what the Western art canon tells us black women’s art is, or should be.” It’s this last point I find most compelling in her work. Because as clear as her vocalized intent is, her absolutely gorgeous but sometimes eerie and abstract pieces are far less transparent. The true depth and meaning behind each piece is cleverly disguised under layers of symbolism and only revealed
after careful study.

A painting by Tammy Jo Wilson

Tammy Jo is the quintessential artist. Encouraged at a young age, she began studying under professionals in high school. With both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Fine Arts, she has traveled every state in the country expanding and honing her craft. She has taught multiple classes and for the past 14 years held the position of Visual Arts and Technology Program Manager at Lewis & Clark College. In 2017, she co-founded Art in Oregon (AiO), a statewide visual-arts-focused non-profit working to build bridges between artists and communities. In 2022, she also became Director of the Bush House Museum Exhibits & Programming.

Artist Tammy Jo Wilson

Never one to rest on her laurels, Tammy Jo was recently involved in the Black Artists of Oregon Exhibition, a historic retrospective she was incredibly proud to be a part of. In May, she exhibited some of her most recent work (including her first full-sized wall mural) at the Souvenir Gallery in Portland. She is also working on an upcoming documentary short film series with MOsley WOtta called “Sketch and Release,” which will highlight black artists in Oregon.

For more information, follow her on Instagram: tammyjowilsonart or check out