Outing Interiority: The Emerging Works of Tamera Bedford

by Claire Cuccio PhD | Washington, DC | March 2017


Artists carry the gift, and the burden, of serving as interpreters and translators of gaps, layers and fissures—the invisible domains of human and extra-human experience. Where we may imagine only a simple image, artists speak the variegated language of visual phenomena. They bear the night vision for life in the dark shadows, corners, alleyways and undersides. It is this inside-out perspective that Tamera Bedford exposes in her nascent series of abstract works.

Unlike the majority of contemporary artists working today, Bedford is not a self-conscious product of art schools and international residencies. Rather, she is a steadfast, self-taught adventurer in artistic expression that has been informed by her extensive world travels and lifetime in Hong Kong, Beijing and across the Rocky Mountains and spacious lands of the American West. Like a gradually expanding hypertext, she has pursued a single material, technique, movement or artist—primarily being 20th century women—one leading to the other, until she worked up an essence that matched her own vision. After filling stacks of coiled sketchbooks, her distinct style began to coalesce. Her breadth of paintings and multimedia works that come to us today in bold and enlarged print editions are characterised by their diverse palettes, methodically shaded hand strokes, amorphous organic shapes and open spaces as well as decisive though ineluctable lines all delineated by a multitude of Japanese gel ink pens engineered with shimmering glass particles.

Bedford’s creative process is similarly authentic and sincere. Her intricate compositions typically commence with a word, image, experience or reflection that ekes its way onto the paper like an urgent problem that must be resolved. The key, however, to appreciating the magnitude of her works is to recognise that they showcase neither a planned design nor advance a forgone conclusion. Her final representations document her meditation on her original idea through the mixing and layering of line, shape and colour to produce a composition that she decides at a particular point to finish on the spot, a spot that captures the evolution of where she began—if you look long enough. 

In her telescoped abstractions of mood, concept, visuality, and above all, landscape, Bedford promises perspective that is neglected or diminished in more concrete, delimited views of the world. She offers up depths of experience that most of us have neither the chance nor the capacity to see, and moreover, take slow time to witness. Her works are also paeans, being amalgamations of her esteemed artistic progenitors. Bedford’s studies of Georgia O’Keefe’s expressive botanicals, for example, explode into a fractured exquisiteness that moves, echoing and quivering across the sheet. Likewise, Bedford reflects an almost cosmic connection to Yayoi Kusama. Kusama’s trademark polka dots live on in Bedford’s preoccupation with repetition through border, pattern and echo. While her stance remains remote like that of Kusama, it is neither impersonal nor lacking in intimacy, her works becoming culminations of an attenuated beauty in the streaming of a single image across a single work. By concentrating on solitary series of imagery, Bedford goes deep into sensory, physical and psychological experience. Looking into her works enables understanding of how phenomena in life can affect us as it simultaneously reveals that a complex interior awareness can enhance our own fleeting presence in this world.