—Arshia Simkin, The Underline
Tyamica Mabry first fell in love with art because of her elementary school daughter’s enthusiasm for it. At first, just to get a feel for an art form, Mabry began obsessively drawing cartoon characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants; now, almost fourteen years later, with her daughter an adult, Mabry has continued her pursuit of art and expanded the ways in which she engages with it, from painting and jewelry-making to button-making and murals. She’s now the 2024 Eno Arts Mill BIPOC Artist in Residence; as a self-taught artist, she’s excited to bring her passion for art-making to the Orange County community.
Of the Mill residency, Mabry said, “Having that dedicated space to go to is a dream come true.” She’s also looking forward to participating in the robust offerings the Mill has for artists and community members, from participating in the First Friday events, gallery shows, summer camps, and classes.
Mabry said that she likes to “paint people that I know, people that inspire me, or people that have helped me in some way.” She’s interested in painting “people in the community, people who are making a difference”—whether those are local poets, singers, or musicians. She’s also drawn to painting nature—and in particular—flowers, often paired with abstract faces. For Mabry, drawing flowers and nature is important because “nature is healing,” she said. She noted that she was forced to engage with nature a lot more during the pandemic, when being around people wasn’t an option, and the habit has stuck.
Mabry’s advice to aspiring artist’s is to not focus on the outcomes, but rather the process: “I think a lot of people try to please an audience and I think the therapeutic part of art is to just express yourself.” She recalled a time recently when she wanted to enter a submission for an upcoming artist’s call, but felt imaginatively blocked; to overcome this, she recalled taking a blank canvas: “I started putting a bunch of different colors of paint and took my hands and rubbed it all over the canvas…Just getting my hands into it made me release that pressure I had put on myself to try to create this specific image,” she said.
Mabry noted that she likes to use symbolism in her art, such as butterflies or lotus flowers: the butterfly might represent a loved one and the lotus flower can have many different meanings, depending on the context. Mabry is currently working on a zodiac series, which she initially started because she felt that it might be relatable to a lot of people. But as she has dived into the research on the zodiac symbols, she said she’s increasingly excited to see what the paintings draw forth—whether that’s memories, “healing that comes along with it,” or fresh insights into her subconscious.
Mabry will be part of the Eno River Mill’s upcoming “Blackfuturism Show,” which opens Friday, February 2, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Learn more about Mabry at https://www.typesofher.com/ where she has original art, art prints, jewelry, and more on sale or on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/Typesofher