By Allison Hagg
It’s one of those strange, dark days in New York, when the rain and fog holds everything in suspension, and navigating the streets becomes a full-fledged expedition through the urban jungle. By the time I step into the rather intimate space where T.lovere is holding her first solo art show, I have to blink a few times to make sure I haven’t journeyed from the Upper West Side into some other world.
The lights are low and moody. Past the pleasantly stocked bar, the red brick walls thrum and vibrate with the deep colors and textures that emanate from T.lovere’s paintings. The artist immediately comes to welcome me; her cascading black and white crown braids and fantastic glittering high-heeled mini boots make her look like a punk-grunge elven princess. She tells me that things are not going according to plan. There have been difficulties with the sound system; it’s jeopardizing the vibe by not playing music to usher in the party.
T.lovere apologizes earnestly for the delay as she takes charge of the control panel. After a harrowing 10 minutes, a beat comes pouring down, and the room immediately relaxes; she knows how to orchestrate an experience. And she should know: she can tackle nearly any creative task, herself. If by some act of god she isn’t able to, she can hook you up with someone who can.
“It’s my first solo show. You came in and my music wasn’t working, my bra’s not on, my phone’s dying, pieces of my art [were] knocked off yesterday…”, but the artist characteristically shows no signs of trepidation. When I ask if she had reservations about putting on her first solo exhibit, she admits that it was a bit intimidating, but feels it was time: “I wanna do it and I wanna do it now, and whatever I mess up on right now, I’ll fix next time, whatever I did right right now I’m gonna do right ten times even more next time.”
Just fifteen minutes past opening, the space is already beginning to fill up with people. The show is titled “Poe.” Like her paintings, T.lovere’s title has multiple layers of meaning. T.lovere explains that she was partially inspired by the musical artist, Poe, although she loves everything from Mozart to Siouxsie and the Banshees, and she consistently spins tunes as she works. Poe is also short for “poet,” a nod to T.lovere’s love of writing and her sometime tendency to create poetry to go along with her work. “I love to write, I love to paint, I love to design… I never sleep!” she quasi-jokes, maintaining an air of gravity. And lastly, T.lovere explains that in Hawaiian, Poe has associations with connection. This resonated with her at a point when she was thinking about family, her ancestors and loved ones she had lost. She points out paintings dedicated to her ex, her grandmother, and particularly her daughter, an artist and musician whom T.lovere wanted to inspire with the show: “[I hope] that she now takes what she didn’t think she was good enough at and brings that forward, ‘cause that was my main purpose of the show.”
Despite the obviously strong familial influence, there is even content in which you can see T.lovere herself. Her self-image pops up in more than one of the works, most obviously in her self-portrait entitled “Just Married.” “I’m not married,” she confides, “but it looked like she was scared out of her mind.”
Even in the works without figures, T.lovere has instilled a great deal of herself onto the canvas, and it radiates out in emotion and depth. She points to a painting and explains that when she was creating it, she was in so much pain from a gymnastics injury that she literally had to crawl to work on it. To T.lovere, those heavy feelings have given the piece power, “There’s a lot of stuff in there, I was literally painting out my pain… And it’s one of my favorite pieces!” She believes the emotion that goes into even the more personal paintings can be just as therapeutic to the viewer as for herself, “… It’s amazing that [viewers] can connect to what the artist connects to. You don’t always have to, I want them to see something different, that’s how you know you did your job…[but] it’s funny how you can speak without words.”
The artist is now looking to connect with art communities overseas, and she’ll soon be exhibiting in London, Paris, and Berlin, where she’s looking forward to the opportunity to hustle, “Everywhere I go, I don’t care if it’s a restroom, I will start business with somebody.”
Besides the paintings and a towering sculpture topped by a barracuda-toothed skull crafted by her daughter, there is a fashion show of T.lovere’s designs planned for later in the evening. Beginning with drawing on her clothes as a young adult and morphing into full-on painting thrift-shop finds, T.lovere has cultivated a remarkable ability to make high art out of the dubious category of recycled objects. She recently designed a pair of glasses that sold in a flash, and she’s currently designing a workout line. It’s a fitting next step for T.lovere as a former gymnast and skater, the athlete of her artistic family.
She reveals that as a kid she never thought art was her thing, but she was too feisty to back down from the challenge: “‘No’? I don’t believe in that at all. I mean, ‘no’ happens for a reason. If a door gets slammed in your face sometimes it’s God’s blessing. But other times, that door is there to get kicked open. That door is there to remove. That door has bolts, I don’t care, remove that door and go.”
T.lovere seems to have fully embraced this approach to life, and that risk has been a small price for the many forms of connection and inspiration she’s put into the world: “If I could say anything, I guess, for other people, you never know how good you are unless you go out there… I think everybody has an artist ability:painting, coloring, writing, or inspiring… inspiring is an art itself. If you can go out and give people the motivation, you’ve done something, a good deed in life, and that’s an artist. That’s it.”
Find out more about T.lovere @lovere.t on instagram!