Tasanee Durrett is a visual artist specializing in single line drawing and painting. Her work celebrates the strength and resilience of the Black community.
Tasanee Durrett is a licensed architect and an artist who is driving positive social change and propelling racial justice through her visual storytelling. Her piece, “Don’t Redline Me”, won first place in the 2020 OFA Art Show and was the catalyst that helped her find and use her artistic voice for good. We asked Tasanee about how her work, her process and how her creative journey has impacted her life and helped others.
Your bio states that you started your “artreprenuerial” journey in early 2020. What was your inspiration to start this journey? And which came first—Artist or Architect?
Yes, my “artreprenuerial” journey started in 2020. Well…actually, it started when I was still in architecture school in 2016. I was an avid drawer, especially being an architecture student at the time. I was working on my final thesis for school, which was about architecture through storytelling. One evening as I was working on my thesis, I thought about how art is a form of visual storytelling and I immediately thought of how I could turn my artwork into visual stories for others to learn from and resonate with. This was my “aha” moment and the start of my “artrepreneurial” journey as a visual storyteller. Hence the name of my business, Visories (a combination of the words “visual” and “stories”).
So, I guess you can say my architectural background came before my artistic one. After graduating in 2017, I put my business ideas aside to focus on my architecture career and becoming a licensed architect, which involves multiple exams and years of experience. I didn’t want to wait too long to pursue my licensure and so I started on that journey a few months after graduating. I recently became a licensed architect last year as a registered architect in the state of Florida, and the 546th registered Black architect. After I became licensed, I poured all my focus back into Visories by creating art that empowers Black communities and helping minority artists launch, grow, and monetize their own art businesses.
I’m fascinated by your single line drawing and painting style. The thought of that makes my hand cramp up! How do you do it? What is your process?
Thank you so much! Believe me, it is definitely a challenge but, I have so much fun with this technique! My process is a mixture of technical and artistic practices. I never lift my hand as I draw and paint, so each piece is made with one unbroken line. It takes a lot of hand-eye coordination. While I’m drawing, I’m allowing my eyes to guide how my hand flows on the paper- it’s very interesting how the hand, mind and eye all connect in one fluid manner. Also, from years of practice, I’ve learned to stop overthinking so much and accept the minute mistakes that come with not lifting my hand as I draw. The technique itself tells a story and many have told me that my single-line artwork evokes emotion.
Oh, believe me, the cramps, itches, and distractions can get tough to ignore/ work around. I try my best not to get distracted though, because I have to start over whenever I lift my hand. For larger pieces (like murals and large canvases), I do have to lift it, but I still maintain one continuous line as I go.
You mentioned you began to get noticed by museums and publications around the nation. Who has taken notice and how does it feel to be recognized and respected as an artist of color?
Yes, the recognition I have been receiving in response to my story and my art has been amazing and I am very grateful! So far, I have had a few shows in Atlanta and recently had my first show in California last year. The show in California was for about 2 months and this was the furthest I've ever sent my work. Now, I am preparing for a show in Winter Park this fall. Also, I’ve recently been selected to exhibit my work at Art Basel Miami this year! I’m really excited for Art Basel. This will allow me to further network, form connections, and gain international exposure of my work.
You said you’ve learned from other minority artists. How have you used what you’ve learned to help advance your career as an artist?
Oh my goodness, I could list minority artists I admire and that have inspired me and my artistic journey for days! Kara Walker, Hank Willis Thomas, and Theaster Gates, to name a few. They all taught me the importance of storytelling and not being afraid to tell the stories of the black and brown communities. I used to be very hesitant to show my pieces because I thought they would be too “black” or too “cultural”. The minority artists who have inspired me have also taught me a lot about confidence and understanding that my visual story is important. Me not sharing my artwork with others is me being selfish and not allowing others to resonate and gain something from my work. By being my authentic self, unapologetically, I have been able to connect with others on deeper levels and I have been able to bring recognition of Black culture in places that you would and would not typically see my work.
I love that you are using your art for good! Tell me about your partnerships with local organizations and how you are making a difference in the community? A core part of my mission is to use my artwork and message of Black culture and Black beauty to bring social and economic change to underrepresented communities. Earlier this year, I had one of the largest opportunities of my artistic career. I had a partnership, with the City of Orlando’s development department and The Art of Collab, to paint a mural for Parramore, Orlando’s most historic black community.
The goal and mission for me was not only to provide an artistic mural to beautify the neighborhood of Parramore, but also bring forth awareness of the history and significant cultural impacts that Parramore has and continues to provide for the City of Orlando. The mural I designed and painted delves on the theme of being fruitful, hence the name of the mural, “Abundance”. The mural exposes the need for fresh produce and sustainable living in Parramore. Parramore is currently in a food desert, as the closest area where any of its residents can purchase fresh foods and produce is more than 8 miles away. This is a growing problem for underrepresented communities and needs to be addressed.
My goal for this mural and this project in general was to beautify the community and to spark conversation so that positive change can occur in this neighborhood. After completion of the mural in collaboration with the City of Orlando, there are now plans in development to incorporate multiple community gardens throughout the neighborhood, so that the community can be self-sustaining and Parramore residents can always have access to fresh goods.
Your piece, “Don’t Redline Me” is incredibly powerful and won first place in the 2020 OFA Art Show. First, this piece is so detailed, how long did it take you to complete it (you can answer that in the number of hours or hand-cramps, whichever you prefer)? And second, can you share how this piece has helped you and others find their voice in society to impact change? Thank you so much! This piece is definitely one that deeply resonates with me as a black woman in architecture and construction. I had quite a few self-realizations and self-discovery moments while drawing this one. Ha-ha! I like that, I’m going to start measuring out the pieces by hand-cramps now! I honestly could not tell you how long this piece took. At that time, I wasn’t timing out pieces like I do now. But it took days, so this piece is one continuous line that I had to keep adding to over a span of time (again, most pieces are done in one sitting, however larger and/or more complex pieces I have to come back to and continue the line from where I left off).
How has this piece helped me and others find a voice in society to impact change? This is such a great question, and it is definitely rooted in my architectural background as well as my personal experiences growing up on the southside of Chicago. Chicago is my hometown and has a special place in my heart. I love the city I grew up in and—to this day—I still absolutely love the vibrancy of the city. However, Chicago was one of the main cities that was largely impacted by redlining and is still impacting neighborhoods to this day. This piece taught me a lot about how, historically, prejudices have not only impacted the built environment, but also the social environment. What I mean, by social environment, is how generations of families have been impacted directly and indirectly—many of which are still feeling the negative impacts of attaining home ownership because of the past practices of redlining. I have had quite a few people who have seen this particular piece gain a sense of needing, not wanting, to bring social change. Almost like there’s a fire that ignites in their spirit. Especially once the viewer has a deeper understanding of redlining and the social and cultural impacts that these practices have had. People can learn about the past and use it to positively change the future and that is what I hope my art can encourage others to do. It starts with exposing knowledge and facts that aren’t typically taught to keep things the way they are. But once exposed, there is no turning back and we can only progress further. I encourage others to find their voice and their “why” in life and go full force with it because no one else will in the same way and in the same manner. We need more trailblazers and visionaries that put action towards change. You can learn more about Tasanee Durrett and view her work on her website at www.visories.com. The 4th Annual OFA Art Show will be October 26th & 27th at the Orlando Museum of Art. Sponsorships are still available. Learn more here.