About the Artist

I was born in Timisoara, Romania. My family and I emigrated to the US when I was 10. Later, as a graduate student at the Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop (2000), I took my electives in art—I thrived being surrounded by a community of writers and artists as I explored links between the linguistic give of idiomatic expressions and the physicality of drawing and painting. That intersection still feels like home. Such crisscrossing—between language and image, drawing and painting, memory and the imagination—has obsessed me from when I first felt its supple force as an 8 year old timidly uttering the word artist under a dictatorship in communist Romania.

My art practice, like my life in general, is deeply embedded in the circumstances of its community. I felt this embeddedness as a wide-eyed child under Ceausescu’s totalitarian regime in the 80s, as an artist’s assistant to Shawn Dulaney in Manhattan in 1999, and now as an artist in residence with the Enos Park Residency for Visual Artists where I feel grateful for the time to develop my practice. As a first-generation Romanian-American artist, I know how place can shape an identity. As much as my ethics may be situational, so too, I feel, is my content and media. For instance, after completing my MFA, I moved to Rogers Park near the Indian and Pakistani grocery stores along Devon Avenue in Chicago where I discovered that food dyes saturate watercolor paper as richly as ink and I fell in love with how I could literally bring a piece of my neighborhood into my paintings of Mahatma Gandhi, MLK, Biggie Smalls, etc..

During a 9-month stint in Bucharest on a Fulbright (2012-13), I got to know the best Romanian poets of my generation as I was researching an anthology on biography and innovation—wherein a poetics statement contextualizes each poet’s creative work. This experience really opened up my own creative practice but it also made me realize I was not fully living out my dream: I ended up understanding that I want to take apart received wisdom in a more visceral manner, through visual means. That 8 year old still inside me wants to make art. Since that realization, I have been pivoting away from poetry and toward the art world. That childlike zeal for exploration now shapes my studio practice—manifesting most recently as Warhol-keyed portraits of assassinated figures, upside-down cairns kissing, and burned hunks of maplewood deconstructing our eschatological nostalgia for that cabin in the woods.

Artists Website: http://www.genetanta.com

Alfas’s Notes

Drawing morbid yet fascinating inspiration from the visages of historically significant victims of assassinations, Romanian born visual artist Gene Tanta is no novice to the macabre seductiveness of violence portrayed through art. This ugly, visceral aspect of our humanity helped birth the expressionist modern masterworks of Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon. Many facets from these legendary painters often find their way into Gene Tanta’s art both aesthetically and thematically. Though this quality may ultimately be prove inadvertent as far as Tanta’s influencers go, what is undeniable is the impact his childhood, within the then totalitarian dictator-ruled Romania, had on his art. Nary allowed to even mutter the word artist as a child, Tanta has exercised his artistic freedom to the fullest exploring the linguistic side of art through poetry and depicting famous figures through abstracted pop art styles. In addition to creating art with the bloodied countenance of assassination victims such as Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Tanta also developed a fascination with the ideas of Josef Albers and the notion that colors behave differently just as living organisms with sentience. This interest is evident in his varied process of media layering using pencil, illustration marker ink, food dye, and handmade walnut in addition to tracing projected images, squeegeeing, brushing, and scrubbing. This practice ultimately results in layered colors, images and textures with complexity similar to that of our own personalities.