Opening reception with artist Q&A to be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 9 in the CWA Upper School Ted Sanford Art Gallery
Register for free here
by Rosemary Ponnekanti
Audrey Tulimiero Welch is not your average artist to show at Charles Wright Academy’s art gallery. For starters, the New Jersey native has spent the last 15 years living and exhibiting in three countries, folding those places into her densely layered acrylics. Since August 2016, however, she’s called Tacoma home. And she’s also a parent at Charles Wright, offering the school a unique window into both her life and artistic process with her upcoming solo show “Body Tree Map,” opening Nov. 9.
“My artwork is a map of my lived experience every day—a specific conversation, a relationship,” says Welch. “I don’t see any demarcation between my life and my work.”
For Welch, who has paintings in collections around the globe and is now represented by Nancy Toomey Fine Art in San Francisco and Danese/Corey Gallery in New York, it’s been a long and colorful journey moving from East to West Coast—a journey that has played out in her art. With a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Delaware and a Master of Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Boston, Welch spent the last 15 years in Indonesia, Thailand, and Australia—five years in each place, where she would walk her city or village and get to know the landscape intimately.
In Sumatra, she was struck by the line and motif used in traditional batik (a cloth-printing process). In Bangkok she fell in love with the saturated colors of garments and buildings. And in Perth she was seduced by the colors of the outback—pale brown, eucalyptus green. Throughout all, she carried with her the memory of the twisted lines of East Coast trees and vines, and of her fascination with the gridded patterns of maps.
All of that comes into Welch’s paint layers. In her light-filled studio high up in Tacoma’s vintage Merlino Building, Welch works on a canvas for months. First she lays down a single color layer with a brush. The next layer might be strands of tape, echoing the lines on a segment of map. Many more layers follow—paint poured from a cup or dripped with a mop, daubs of rice paper, Xeroxed images transferred with gel medium (a kind of glue), even plaster. Finally, she’ll pull off the original tape, leaving an archeology of materials and meaning.
“I’m grounded in the heritage of abstract expressionism, of the intuitive gesture,” says Welch, a petite woman with curly red hair, freckles and an intriguing accent that mixes Aussie with clipped New Jersey. “But I want to juxtapose that with something very intentional, the map line. It’s a structure with the freedom to respond to my materials. And my whole body is involved in the gesture, not just my wrist.”
Hence the show’s title, “Body Tree Map.”
“What I love in Audrey’s art is seeing all the layers, the gestural lines coming through the piece,” says Upper School art teacher Christina Bertucchi. “There’s a real energy in her work.”
Welch will speak about her process at the opening reception, as well as give a workshop to Charles Wright’s painting and drawing class. That’s something that previous gallery artists have done, like Tacoma illustrator Chandler O’Leary last fall, and it’s an opportunity that Bertucchi sees as priceless.
“Kids love that, because they have a connection to the artist,” she says. “For a kid who may not have had the chance to go to a museum, they not only meet the artist and hear them speak, but also they get to know their process and how they do work. That’s gold.”
The show’s opening reception coincides with opening night of the school’s fall play “Salome,” which begins at 7:30 p.m. in the theater.
Welch’s son Raymond, a sophomore, won’t be in the art class she’ll be teaching. But Welch says the school has been a good fit for her family—as has Tacoma itself.
And she’s happy to have this chance to connect with the school and the wider community.
“Being a painter is a solitary occupation,” Welch says. “Talking about my work and connecting people with it is part of the process.”