“I’ve painted my whole life …. in my head. Four years ago, I decided I was tired of standing in my own way, I just wanted to paint; to make some marks and fall in love with them. From an inner joy perspective, these have been the best four years of my life.” – Jacksonville artist Tiffany Manning
Tiffany Manning exudes an effervescent joy that is contagious. When viewing and experiencing her artwork, this sparkling energy she carries is evident in each color loaded brushstroke. She is joy, integrity, spontaneity, and freedom and these personality traits become ours as she shares her newest work with us on canvas. Her most recent body of work, The Stories Within, is a collection of large-scale, whimsical paintings based in abstraction, though they’ve been pushed a bit into the realm of the defined. In this series, Manning uncovers distinct playful ‘characters’ within the depths of each painting, bringing them to the surface for the viewer to interact with. She says these characters have existed between layers of paint since the conception of each piece. “There is always a story in the first layers of paint, then it’s up to me whether I let that story sink into the background or bring the characters in there to life. I used to ignore the characters, but this show gave me permission to allow ALL the characters to live! This is my inner child running wild.”
There are so many aspects to this show that make it extra special. First of all, Manning is not the only artist involved. All the paintings in this exhibition were created by her, yes… BUT there’s more. This body of work has plans beyond gallery walls. One painting in particular was the inspiration behind a fully illustrated storybook penned by Manning and her 18-year-old daughter, Madison. A former visual arts student at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, Madison has been a part of the production process for this project since day one. Manning says, “We both think in pictures and I’ve always involved [my daughter] in my pieces. She loved the idea of sitting down with me to brainstorm a storyline for the character in one of the paintings.” (The author got an inside scoop about the very first character the Manning women extracted for the book: he is a white dog floating on a magic carpet made of his own fur. I know, I know, now you’re all intrigued!) This exhibition is the beginning of an ongoing mother/ daughter creation collaboration! From November 7th through January 23rd, visitors to the Heather Moore Gallery will have the experience of viewing the original paintings by Tiffany Manning hung beside framed storyboards with illustrations and text created by Madison Manning.
Many of you may know Tiffany Manning as a photographer, yes… BUT she is so much more. With a background in advertising, Manning worked in the corporate world for many years before she allowed herself permission to establish and embody a lifestyle that is more organically fitted to her free spirit and her process of creating. She is the tried and true definition of an artist. Tiffany Manning is a photographer, a painter, a mother, a dancer, a community leader, a healer, a graphic designer, a meditator, a TEDx organizer, a team player, a wellness practitioner, a Renaissance woman … an artist. On an average day if Manning doesn’t have a photo shoot scheduled, she spends between 8-12 hours painting in her studio at CoRK in Riverside. As a self-taught artist, there is a ton of freedom in the way she creates. She describes this new body of work as a departure from her previous norm, “different in such a fun way, and sometimes it’s good to be different. I am a process painter. Entering the flow state is part of my process. About a year and a half ago, I gave myself permission to create fun, playful, childlike pieces and there’s a connection between Cathedral Arts Project and that permission. There is a lot of passion in my work. Every detail in these paintings is made out of love, every mark is necessary.”
Manning has been shooting events for the Cathedral Arts Project for almost five years. She captures magical moments on camera of young people in the visual and performing arts programs in the CAP classrooms and on stage. She is witness and historian to students of the arts during some of their first creative experiences as they are allowed to shine in a creative element. CAP provides their students with a rich arts curriculum as well as the opportunity to be authentically themselves through a variety of artistic avenues. Young people are encouraged to be different by expressing themselves creatively at CAP and Manning is there, behind the lens. Manning has allowed herself to let loose and reconnect with her own inner child as of late and perhaps this is no coincidence. Picasso said that “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Perhaps Tiffany Manning is onto something, focusing her practice on the art of allowing.
“Painting has broken me open in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It’s my job to be myself and my process needs to be unrestricted. Once you give yourself permission to change your mind, magic starts happening. Now that this show is hung, I’m returning to a more organic nature of working and mark making. I want for people to realize this ability in themselves … The stories we tell ourselves are what keeps us where we are … in the same place. If you change your perspective, your whole life shifts.” Manning has a book in the works on shifting one’s perspective and uncovering joy, but that’s down the line a bit. She is allowing herself to do what she loves, to create in a free flowing manner. She is letting us in on the joy this process has revealed for her through this body of work. Perhaps in sharing the experience of viewing her new work, we can all allow ourselves a little extra, perhaps we can all bring forth our own inner child.
On Thursday, November 7th from 5:30-7:30, there will be an opening reception with an exclusive artist Q&A session at the Cathedral Arts Project building on Laura Street, free and open to the public. For more information, follow the Facebook event page.