Interview 13. Taraful Creations.

Here comes my so far absolutely lengthiest interview/text (and it´s not because of my writing). This artist I have not been able to identify completely. If I didn´t miss it in the extensive text (but I don´t think so.) Maybe someday we get to know this persons true name/identity…but until then, we have to stick to the alter ego/pseudonym/alias “Taraful Creations”.

Me: Hello I only know your instagram account, who’s behind it? Who is behind “tarafulcreations”? (Full name + whatever you like to share about yourself…for example occupation, how you live (house, apartment, something else?), family, pets etc..)

Tara: That is a great question. This response is a little lengthy, to adequately answer I feel like I have to describe a little bit of my creative backstory.

I was creating things for about 2 months and only had 3 or 4 things to show people. My brother and I went into a gallery in San Francisco, California and I was just ooing and awing over everything on her walls. She also coordinated a lot of the street art scene, and I was just so excited to be talking to her. My brother suddenly decided to show her my work. This complete stranger, looked at me and expressed how impressed and amazed she was by things I considered to be so unworthy. After that experience, I started being kinder to myself and my work. It took a lot of self-convincing, but I can continue to create because I can remind myself that even though I dislike what the outcome is, my role as the creator is not to interact with it once its complete. It is simply to create it and put it out there for others to interact with however their human experience deems fit. Suddenly, with more creative works being produced that I just looked at as totally abstract, people would talk to me about all the different things they would see and how much they enjoyed spending time engaging in my shapes and lines and patterns. This inspired me to keep making things and even when faced with the ‘I cant make anything that I actually WANT to make’, I could follow that up (usually) with a ‘that’s not the point. The process if for you, the product is for them.’

I am a human that is made up of several different pieces – comprised of the people and experiences that I have been exposed to. We all are, really. Just one big mixed bag of experience and we get to pull reactions and feelings out of that bag and then get to decide if that’s the answer we’re sticking with or if we want to take another path. My childhood taught me how to pull those emotions out of the bag, but not how to interpret them in order to make new choices. Once that learning process began, so too did my willingness to create from the heart. I truly believe the people behind tarafulcreations are mainly the people who support me and inspire me to keep creating. Tarafulcreations came about after I had been actively creating original work for family and friends for about a year. Once I started creating original work (as opposed to carbon copy wood burnings for people, which is where I started off), I started to feel like a part of my work in a new way that justified the need for a new identity. I have really strong mental aversions to social media and to ‘putting myself out there’, and am constantly battling imposter syndrome difficulties. I am Taraful when my brain allows me to be whole-heartedly myself. The term was inspired by mashing up ‘beautifully Tara’ and to be more of a description of who I am. I am Tarafully Tara. Sometimes.

My goal for awhile was to remain completely anonymous. I couldn’t control the people closest to me knowing I created things, but I wanted to keep my name away from it. Not because of shame or fear of criticism, but I wanted people to interact with my creations without knowing who I was. My family has always been incredibly encouraging and unfortunately I was convinced from the very start the my creations (especially the quick ‘thoughtless’ ones) were rubbish. When even those got all the praise, it became hard to mentally differentiate real appreciation from my perceived cliché familial response of: “oh honey, what a good job you’ve done. Let’s hang this on the fridge.” Over the last 3 years in particular, I have worked really hard (and with the endless efforts to encourage me from my brother, my SO, and a few other really close friends) to keep a growth mindset and focus on the good things instead of letting myself be convinced of all the bad. I am genuine. In everything I do – and while I can’t expect that from others all the time, I can always fallback on myself and knowing my mental wellbeing is what matters and what has to exist if I am to have any hope of inspiring that pure and raw self-love and creativity from others. (lol – I say that as if I’m good at it. I can know it as fact without living it unfortunately. It comes and goes in cycles depending on how much time I’m putting into self-care. But it’s there! And I always know I will find my way back to it if I let myself slow down and look for it.)

Anyway! Got a little sidetracked there – I am becoming more and more Tarafulcreations the more I engage with strangers and really become the creativist I aspire to be. While I make all of my own Instagram posts currently (instead of my brother, who started me off), my SO has taken responsibility for setting up a creatives website where we hope to be able to sell prints (and stickers and yaddayadda) in the not-so-distant future. I think a lot of it has to do with self-acceptance, and that too, is a work-in-progress. Tarafulcreations was established to give my overall goals for how I interacted with people a foundation and identity that I aspire to fully grow into. My goals are to inspire people to play and take things (including themselves) less seriously, while channeling child-like curiosity and energy, as well as reserving judgment of themselves and others so they can truly be themselves and have fun just living. It was always heartbreaking to me to watch someone try and create something and feel as though they failed because it didn’t look like what they set out to do. Anything that the human brain is able to physically synthesize creatively is worth appreciating – if for no other reason than the investment it took to get it created. Not everything will be liked by everyone, and although I know this as a truth, when I am able to embody Tarafulcreations in her entirety, this thought will never be part of the creative equation.

I am a student. I started school when I was 4 years old, and never took longer than a 3 month break until this last year (Sept-Dec2020 = first time not ‘in school’) I mean, I’m technically not in school now, but I received a fellowship to continue being a student in a big girl position so it almost counts as a job. I did work in a research lab at the university I attended for 6 of the 7 years I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree. I also spent a short amount of time working customer service with a friend of mine that built websites – I really dislike phone calls… and dislike dealing with grumpy people even more. Its with the idea of ‘not liking to deal with people’ in mind that drove my educational career choices. I always knew I wanted to help people, and was always incredibly fascinated by nature and medicine. I was convinced for most of my high school existence that I would be a Nurse Practitioner, but the more I did to peruse that career path, the more I was reminded that people (in general) kinda suck and I rather not be the one to deal with it. I still want to help, and learn, and provide… but from a distance. Which is where benchwork in the lab became the highlight of my college career. I wouldn’t have finished that damn degree if I didn’t have that lab keeping me grounded. School is hard, and stressful… and balancing that with family life just makes things seem impossible sometimes.

My adult life has mostly been spent in an apartment with my fiancé. Prior to that I lived in an ‘upscale’ mobile home park. (I call it upscale because most of them weren’t actually mobile anymore, and it was not nearly as scary as some of the mobile home communities I discovered as an adult, but it was still a pretty rough place to grow up). I grew up with my parents together (even though they shouldn’t have been – lots of communication shortcomings that made everyone miserable) and an older brother. My mom had my little sister when I was 14yo, so I got to be mom-sister for a couple years before I moved out to live my now-fiancé and start college. Tarantulas and Kingsnakes had always been my favorite pets as a kid in addition to the standard dog/cat scene. I have always been an animal lover though. Anything and everything – I just wasn’t allowed to own them all haha. My SO and I just recently had to move across the country (from Arizona to Georgia) and I had to give my snake away – we had him for 5 years, but he would not have done well in a family car with my dog (boxer mix) and two cats… We also had to give up our 100gal fish tank. One of my favorite pass times was to stick my nose up against the glass and get the full 3D view of the fish and imagine what it might be like to live in water. Water scares me. Which is probably one of the reasons I love it so much (that seems to be a reoccurring theme with my loves and passions. If it scares me, I am all about it).

Me: What is a “Tucsonan”? (I have googled it off course, but I want your words/explanation).

Tara: Okay, so I googled this term too and was practically rolling on the floor in laughter. The definitions I found weren’t totally inaccurate, but definitely an exaggeration in my opinion. Although, I will note that heat exhaustion and gentle brain damage may have affected me as a kid. I hated drinking water, and spent most of my time outside. Those two things make for some pretty unpleasant experiences for sure.
I’m a desert rat (and my name spelled backwards is A Rat, so I always thought that worked out nicely). I have a lot of strange habits, like collecting dead things or creepy/cool things from the environment or things that were oddly sentimental – in a way these behaviors are very similar to our native packrat species. (I don’t hoard cactus or eat car wiring though at least :P). I grew up in the desert, and spent most of my free time outside playing in the dirt and looking for any wildlife I could find such as insects, snakes and lizards, and toads when the rainy season rolled through. The neighborhood I grew up in was attached to a pretty large area of untouched desert, so I got very comfortable navigating the violently thorny and venomous terrain at a young age. A lot of my childhood adventures were small road trips from my small town, up to all the cool malls and shops in Tucson. I then moved to the big city (of Tucson, lol) where I spent my adult life up until last month. It’s a relatively small city (especially now that I have Atlanta Georgia to compare it to), with a modest downtown and an overall wild-west ambiance. (not nearly as much as places like Tombstone or Bisbee), but it still lingers in all the copper, the sharp angry plants, the beautiful sunsets, mountain scapes, and I can’t put into words how magical the monsoon storms are during the summer heat. I spent a little over a year volunteering at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. I am definitely a little biased, but anyone who visits AZ/Tucson should make sure this place is on their to-do list.

Me: Are you a “real” scientist?

Tara: If I had been asked this question 3 years ago, I would have said no. Since then, I have redefined what I think a scientist is, what they do, and have gained new appreciations for my role in that universe. I was always naturally curious and inquisitive. I hated school (hard to imagine with as long as I spent doing it, huh? The learning generally made the misery worth it.) I loved learning about biology, anatomy, ecology, and have dipped my toes into every ‘-ology’ that has crossed my path. In particular, if it scared people, I had even more interest in learning about it so I wouldn’t be afraid also. Insects and spiders are where that started. I was 5 years old when I was telling people I wanted to be an entomologist when I grew up. That’s a big word for a 5 year old, I know. I knew then too, which made me even prouder to be telling people about it. I like to study things to understand them. Understanding in general is very rarely inherent or obvious. It takes a lot of work, and even then, you’re really only learning how much you don’t actually know about something. It’s exhausting but exhilarating to be stuck in that information cycle. I would watch Black Widow spiders in their webs cleaning themselves. I was afraid of them, and knew a lot of other people were too, but at the end of the day, fear typically comes from misunderstanding. Studying them taught me that they rarely ventured from their webs (so if I wasn’t messing with them in their home, I would be very unlikely to get hurt) and that they were more afraid of me than I ever had the right to be of them. If I could put in effort to better understand something and thus reduce my fear, it seemed like a win-win. I took that a step farther with my fear of the cinematic zombie scene. I watched a lot of horror movies before my delicate little brain should have, and zombies are as close as I get to a phobia. That fear, aided by books like Richard Preston’s Hot Zone and Cobra Event really got me into learning about disease transmission, and human pathogens, and working in a place that handles those kind of threats. Here I am now, with 6 years of life science lab tech research in something ‘interesting’ but not something I was passionate about, (I worked with bugs on a regular basis, and evolutionary biology is super cool – I’m so glad I started my journey there) and now I’m a microbiology fellow at the CDC! I am learning from amazing professionals during a pandemic surge more severe than anything I ever imagined would become our reality. I do consider myself to be a real scientist, but only because I have the constant drive to learn and better my understanding for how the world works. Not just for my sake, but learning myself is the only way I can ever hope to translate information into meaningful words that might explain things to others that helps alleviate unnecessary fear and discomfort. I’ll go out and learn it so people don’t needlessly murder insects or pass judgment without having some understanding about what kind of damage their ignorance might be causing. I like to get dirty (even more satisfying if I’m convinced I’m doing something general people wouldn’t be willing to do). I’d jump into the mud puddle head first if it was deep enough (figuratively and literally).

Me: When, how and why did you begin to create your art?

Tara: I started doodling when I was just a wee-human. I liked squiggly lines and trying to make them get close to each other without touching as I filled up a space/page. I also enjoyed sitting at the computer and using Paint to create a bunch of intersecting lines, and then using bucket tool to fill in colours so they wouldn’t touch. In middle school/high school I started woodburning things for people, and would occasionally find myself taking apart toys and melting them together into weird sculptures. I never considered this art at the time, but I can see now that those were my earliest forms of creativity. When woodburning, I always used other peoples work and carbon copied/traced it onto wood, and then burned it to give as gifts. The smell of the burning wood/smoke, combined with producing an image that actually resembled the thing I was wanting, made this satisfying. I never identified with it though. I liked the product but felt like I was cheating somehow at art. I stopped creating all together for the first couple of years in college (with a couple of small exceptions), but didn’t give it a second thought until I had gone to spend a summer with my brother in SF. The emotional and physical freedom that gave me allowed my self-expression to become unburied and wiped all over a canvas. My self-expression is dirty, but fun.

I also had to get creative with the way I speak, my struggles with dyslexia change the way I remember the exact definitions of words. I remember by association instead of by definition – it’s similar to when you don’t know how to spell a word, but you know how to spell this other word that means practically the same thing, so you use the word you know how to spell. My brain does that with speech, except words aren’t always interchangeable, so I have kind of just invented my own words. Language is just a way of communicating, right? So if you can get your point across, why does there need to be such strict grammar rules for spoken language anyway. I’m not about that life. My mom’s favorite example of this quality is how I would say, “I have a smash on Wolverine.” instead of a crush… Of course, when this would happen when I was younger, I thought people were laughing AT me, not with me… so it took some active effort on my part to accept myself as I am and really embrace my linguistic creativities.

As I mentioned above, I went to live with my brother and his girlfriend in SF for a little while one summer in college (this was an incredibly important summer for a lot of reasons. I was very ready to give up on my life and this experience was a pivotal moment in how I’d choose to live when I came home. I was 21yo going on 22). I wasn’t working or responsible for classwork and after the first month found myself bored enough to ask him to buy me some art supplies. A couple canvases, a couple of acrylic paints (glow-in-the-dark was always a need-to-have), and a couple of fine-tip sharpies. I sat there and doodled and painted and created and it was so much fun. He loved it and bought me more stuff to play with. When we’d go on city hikes, I would take pictures of street art and would reference small pieces as I worked on the next thing. This was the first time I allowed myself to create original work and truly accepted the fact that I was doing it for the fun of it, not for some professional purpose/goal. I came home from that summer with my newfound joy of creating, and my family ate up the easy gifting opportunity. I was being given so many new creative toys and paint brushes. It got really overwhelming for a little while – just to stare at the mountain of toys I had to choose from. Since I don’t have a particular preference (because I am so unpracticed with everything), it generally made it easy to just grab something and let my hands do all the work and whatever came out of it was out of my control.

Me: How do you “come up” with the motives that you do? Can you tell something about your “creative process”?

Tara: I kind of started to hint at this with my last response, but it’s all about playing to me. Just like building blocks or digging in the yard to find things. I like to play and entertain myself. I often default to finger painting when using acrylics just because I love being able to make a mess. It’s all in the process and the freedom of light-hearted play to me. I like to make things look creepy when I can. I also love to give pictures ‘depth’ by hiding images within the bigger piece. Only seen when you take the time to look for it (or if you have a black light for glow-in-the-dark surprises.). I want my audience to get unique experiences out of the things of mine they interact with. I want them to see my innocent play-time in hopes of inspiring someone else who is afraid to let themselves create that it doesn’t matter what it looks like. The squiggly lines and the constantly changing patterns are all just things my brain decides to spit out. I am at my most creatively productive when I am able to put my personal judgements aside, set out some tools to play with, and just close my eyes and make some marks and I just build off it from there. I would also frequently ask people who I knew were notoriously convinced they were incapable of being creative to draw/scribble lines for me on a canvas. I would add to it, and pass it back to them. If they stayed willing, entire pieces were created this way and they are absolutely some of my favorites.

Me: Tell me something about other interests of yours, other than creating that is.

Tara: All the things!! Computer coding and technology are big areas that completely repulse my interests. (easier to list the things I don’t like than all the things I do) I really enjoy learning and experiencing just about everything else. Horror movies involving paranormal scaries or zombies are always fun. So is just spending an hour or two exploring the backyard – turning over rocks. It’s definitely a more satisfying experience if I am with someone that is curious and inquisitive about the things I find. Sleeping and practicing lucid dreaming are fun pass times also.

Me: Do you think things will go back to “normal” in the world during 2021?

Tara: Luckily for us, how ‘normal’ is defined constantly changes as new norms get established in our brains. Things are constantly changing in patterns that resemble a pendulum swing (thanks cause and effect!). I think the pandemic has made a larger percent of the population aware of the microscopic/submicroscopic dangers that are (and have always been) constantly trying to kill us. I don’t think we will always be required to wear masks, and do foresee a future where we can gather and party again. This experience will hopefully inspire people to be more mindful of their health in a way they never had to consider before. I have some academic backgrounds in epidemiology and an appreciation for human disease, and I knew mid-January of 2020 that this was going to be severe if proper containment wasn’t achieved. Now, it’s more about the mutations that are popping up. I think it is possible to keep yourself and your family safe if you take proper precautions and help educate the community on why it’s important for them to do so also, but no. I think the instability of this RNA virus will cause more strife before it starts getting better. But! It will get better. We’re learning more everyday about this disease and how to combat it. I have faith that we will be able to outrun the mutations.

Me: Do you have any good (or maybe just unusual perhaps?) “sell and/or marketing your art advices”?

Tara: I have pawned off the selling and marketing of Tarafulcreations things to my fiancé. I have a very hard time asking for money for these things, but know the time and supplies I invest into their creation cannot be sustained if I didn’t ask for some monetary reimbursements. This becomes easier when I feel like I have truly invested a part of myself into making the thing, but that generally only happens when I am making something for someone to begin with, and then just knowing they have it is satisfying enough for me – which is why I’ve relinquished responsibility for selling my things. As far as unusual marketing is concerned, I have absolutely loved making things to just plant out into the wilderness for someone to find. Since I don’t assign monetary value (or much value of any other type) to my work, it makes leaving things somewhere pretty easy for me. It could be put in the trash, kicked around, or picked up and loved forever. Of course, I always hope for the latter, but genuinely don’t care what the next person does with it. Art is a thing to be interacted with, and just as the creations themselves are unique, so will every interaction with the people who come in contact with it and since I have no control over that interaction, it has made it easy to let things go. I don’t advise this type of advertising for anyone who puts a lot of heart into other peoples love of their work or who values where their creatives end up, but those things don’t impact me. I have also considered graffiti stickers, but have some liter related mental difficulties with that one.

Me: Do you have any favourite artist/painter/creator? (you can name more than one If you want to).

Tara: People in general and what they can create are absolutely amazing to me. I find street art very inspirational, as well as creatives that really exhibit free-flow abstract thought. I think the most influential artists for me have been Tim Burton (drawings, unconventional lines and uneven shapes), Danny Elfman (unconventional musical compositions), and the plethora of lesser-known musical influences I had growing up. I am not a fan of H.P. Lovecraft as a human, but love Cthulhu mythos and some of the stories he created. I love taking in the world around me and have some level of appreciation for every created thing I am exposed to. Rap that is heavy in ‘we do all the sex, murder, and drugs’ is generally not on my peruse list, but even then I have found some things I like. I’m easy to please, but don’t condone any form of true hate, cruelty, or mistreatment of animals or people.

Some musical favorites include (very diverse genera’s here):
Heilung, Wardruna, Corvus Corax, Ghost, Tool, Shiny Toy Guns, Sisters of Mercy, Smash Mouth, Loreena McKennitt, Dead Can Dance is a big one, Prof, MISSIO, Pink Floyd, Caravan Palace, Rammstein, Mindless Self Indulgence, Gonna Get Got, Blockhead, The Beatles (The Yellow Submarine was one of my favorite movies growing up), Oingo Boingo (Danny Elfman), Steel Panther, Johnathan Coulton, Cake, K. Flay, Orbital, The Infected Mushroom, The Hu, Die Antwoord – alright, that’s a lot. I’ll stop there.

Cinematic favorites:
The Nightmare Before Christmas, Beetlejuice, Corpse Bride, Army of Darkness (and Evil Dead), Night of the Living Dead, Studio Ghibli films (Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service – haven’t seen one of his movies I didn’t like), Disney, Pixar, animated movies… so so many. Contagion, Creepshow, Twice Told Tales (Vincent Price was a favorite), I’m really quite terrible with remembering names of things, so I’m impressed with myself that I made this list but there are definitely several that are being left out.

Me: Now, I want you to ask yourself something interesting! Then I’d like you to answer the question. Please, go ahead…

Tara: What scientific innovations am I most excited about for the future?
Telemedicine and innovations in portable and compact DNA/RNA sequencing technology has come such a long way. I am so excited for a future where I can take a swab of anything I wanted, pop it into a machine, and it tell me every single DNA/RNA organism that’s hanging out. That technology will help in our fight against antibiotic resistance, as well and help prevent easily preventable illnesses like food poisoning. “Oh, I’m not feeling well”, is not a good enough answer for me. I want to know exactly what bacteria is colonizing my body and that information will help drive better understanding on how our personal microbiomes influence hormone changes, moods, food cravings, etc… It’s all incredibly interesting science and as Johnathan Coulton’s The Future Soon song goes – “It’s gonna be the future soon!” And I cant wait. (I make this reference because every time I start getting excited about new technology that is up-and-coming, I recall this song and sing those lyrics out loud very enthusiastically.)

Me: Where can one find your interesting and fascinating artwork If one want to view or purchase?

Tara: Currently, my work is only exhibited on Instagram @tarafulcreations. A Facebook page has been started, a website has been started, and I am considering an Etsy account, but I’m still crawling on my creative-baby-legs and am unsure how long it will actually take for me to get consistent with posts and making my work more available. I think once more people start engaging with me or asking for my work to be more available, that will help push me. Unfortunately, that isn’t really the way the real world works though. People won’t know I exist or make things if I don’t put myself out there in the first place. This is a work-in-progress. Instagram currently only exhibits around 20% of everything I have actually created, so it isn’t very representative yet. I am happy to communicate with anyone and everyone about my work or my motivations through Instagram or my creative email – Hopefully within the next few months I will have a working website and more work published so people can have a broader idea of what to expect from my creative efforts so commissions can become more of a possibility. It’s hard for me to imagine people wanting to buy my work, but I will just keep creating and see where the future takes me.

Well, that was not a bad, writing this extensively, especially not for someone claiming to have dyslexia. It was surely an interesting read to. It´s a fascinating thing I think to get a glimpse of someone elses thought and deeper thought processes. We can learn something from each and every person we meet, interact with or even just read about, like here. Right here on this blog.

I want to finish with wishing this artist good luck with everything and thank you so much for your time and effort. Below are some of her artworks.

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