Meet local artist Tara Blackwell of BWell Studios located in Norwalk. This local mom, who was born and raised in the area, grew up in a household of artists. After majoring in advertising, she became interested in pop culture and symbolism. Some of her paintings are “light and fun” and others may have a “vintage pop reference as satirical social commentary for current events.” Her work has been seen at The Norwalk Art Space, The Gallery at SoNo1420, The Village and more. Come meet her at an opening reception at 7 For All Mankind in Westport. There will be an opening reception there on Saturday, May 13 from 3-5pm and the exhibit will run through May 29. Follow Tara on IG at @taramariebwell and visit her website at bwellstudios.com.
How many children do you have and what are their ages?
I have a 15-year-old daughter.
What brought you and your family to town?
I was born and raised in this area.
What’s your favorite aspect about being part of the community?
Norwalk has a cool art scene. I feel fortunate to be in a diverse community with so much talent. Although we are close to NYC and of course that is a perk of living in this area, I love that I can stay local and catch an amazing exhibit or hear some great music on any given weekend. The art community is also incredibly supportive, and I am continually inspired by spending time with other creatives here in Norwalk.
What’s your favorite family activity to do in the area?
Hanging out at the Norwalk Art Space which is an absolute gem in our community.
We understand you were raised in a household of artists. Can you tell us how growing up in a family full of creative talent fostered your love for art?
The arts were a major part of my upbringing. Before I was born, my father owned a gallery / coffee house called the “Rubaiyat.” This is where my parents met—they were both artists. Although he eventually closed the space, our home became the meeting place for my parent’s artist friends. So, I was immersed in the arts from a very young age, observing and listening to my parents and their friends talk about art. My extended family is also filled with visual artists and performers.
Did you always have an interest in art?
Yes. When I was a kid, I thought creating art was something everyone did. I didn’t think it was anything unique. It was just a regular part of my life, and I thought it was this way for everyone. My older brother would draw all the time and I just tried to follow suit. It wasn’t until teachers and peers started to point out that there was something special about my drawings. I would be picked to do the creative aspect of any group project. Probably around 12 or 13 I started identifying as being an “artist.”
You have a series of pieces that take us back to your childhood, exploring imagery with bold colors,
whimsical notions and familiar logos and characters. Can you tell us more about this nostalgic series?
As a member of the Gen X latchkey kid generation, I spent a lot of time in front of the TV consuming vibrant commercial imagery. My earliest visual memories are filled with after-school and Saturday morning cartoons, Sunday comic strips, candy logos, and cereal box mascots. In college, I majored in advertising, and became even more fascinated with pop culture and symbolism. While immersed in commercial illustration, I was taught the objective was to communicate a significant visual message to a target audience to influence them. I believe that’s what paintings do as well. Now, as a painter, I explore retro logos and characters through my work. Some of my paintings are light and fun, other times I might utilize a vintage pop reference as satirical social commentary for current events. Feminist messaging is present in much of my work as well as themes of resiliency, perseverance, and empowerment.Where do you find inspiration?
While much of my inspiration comes from my childhood and nostalgic pop culture, as a mom, I am continually inspired by my teenage daughter, Lila. Lila is a talented, emerging artist with a lot to say! We have many conversations about her experiences and perspectives on everyday things as well as larger societal events. Last summer we had the amazing opportunity work together through a residency at the Museum of Motherhood in Saint Petersburg, FL. We collaborated on a collage series utilizing clippings from vintage magazines. Through our different generational lenses, we combined perspectives, piecing together images as we pieced together our questions and ideas about complex topics such as reproductive rights, body image, cultural appropriation, and more. Beyond the residency, we bounce ideas off each other on a regular basis. People often get the impression that I am providing her mentorship and guidance, but I feel that our influence on each other is mutual. Actually, the scale tips towards her being more influential on me!
What is the most rewarding part of your process? I wish I could say that my process is fluid, but it is a hot mess most of the time! Before I start painting, I create a multilayered foundation using materials such as plaster and glue. As the piece evolves, I continue to add layers to work through the unpredictable creative process. So, I have this gritty, uneven surface and then attempt to create these smooth, clean, graphic images on top of it. I believe this process aligns with the dichotomy of my subject matter and underlying messages in my work and is symbolic of my personal life experience. So, I guess I can say that the most rewarding part of the process is the cathartic aspect of working through challenges on the canvas as a reminder of my ability to be resilient and flexible in the face of adversity in everyday life.
Your work has been seen at many local venues such as The Norwalk Art Space, The Gallery at SoNo1420, The Village and more. Next, we can find your work in Westport. What more can you tell us about your next show in Westport?
I am so excited to be partnering with 7 For All Mankind in Westport. I had a lot of fun creating a window installation based on their current theme “California Breeze.” While I am a Northeast native, I loved exploring the vibrant West Coast colors and imagery. With the change of the season, people are ready to feel the sunshine and take a break from the grind. I hope that my work encourages viewers to take some time to chill and unwind. I will also be featuring some new work and a sampling of work from my previous series. There will be an opening reception Saturday, May 13 from 3-5pm and the exhibit will run through May 29.
What’s next for BWell Studios?
I am just continuing to create new work!
What’s the best advice you’ve gotten from another mom?
Take care of yourself. It’s easy to put everyone else’s needs before your own, but it’s important to prioritize your own self-care. Taking time to exercise, eat well, sleep enough, and do things that make you happy can help you maintain your well-being.
Do you have any advice for other moms, considering entrepreneurship?
My parents were self-employed and as a kid I experienced the ups and downs of small business ownership. To be honest, it made me risk-averse, and it took me a long time to take that leap to become a working artist. I think having a real-life example of success is important. Find a mentor. I am fortunate that I had a mentor in my immediate family. My mom has been the owner of New Perspective Cabinetry and Design in Westport for over 20 years. I am grateful for my mom’s example of grit and business savvy in a male-dominated industry. Having someone to show you that what seems impossible can in fact be possible with hard work and determination is incredibly motivating and will remind you that you are not alone in this process. There are women who have done it and can provide valuable guidance. Seek their support and be a sponge.
How do you unwind when you need some “me time?”
I make time about four times a week for my yoga practice. My favorite yoga studio is CT Power Yoga in Stamford.
We love supporting local businesses. Favorite places in town or nearby to…
Have dinner with/without kids: Tomato Tomato in Stamford
Grab a drink with friends: SONO 1420
Have a date night: Olio in Stamford
Shop for yourself/shop for your kids: I try to buy from local artists and designers whenever possible—Kultjah, Love More Than Ever, Studio162
Spa/salon: Salon B in Fairfield
Grab coffee: The Cafe at the Norwalk Art Space
ABOUT TARA BLACKWELL
Tara Blackwell is a mixed media pop artist working in Connecticut and New York. Raised in a household of artists, she was immersed in differing artistic styles and modalities from a young age. Experimenting with a variety of mediums and techniques, Tara employs bold colors, layers, and texture, often incorporating nostalgic pop culture to explore contemporary social issues.
Follow Tara on IG at @taramariebwell and visit her website at bwellstudios.com.